Friday, June 26, 2015

Joining #reviewathon

Write On Review-a-Thon

As some of you know, I have still yet to catch up with my reviews, but since this reviewathon has come at the end of the school year, this comes at the perfect time to start catching up on the books that I have read since this past January/February.  But I have a bunch of friends coming over for some movie watching tonight, so I will start working on my reviews tomorrow after I have done some cleaning of my apartment (dusting my china cabinet and possibly something else).  But in any case, its the perfect time for me to start catching up on the backlog of reviews.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Sunday Salon - Some personal thoughts

I usually use this space on Sundays, when I post, to talk about bookish related stuff going on in my life.  But after seeing some comments that my anger stir inside of me,  I felt I needed to get the thoughts in a place that felt safe to me and not on Facebook.

As some of you know, I am a Christian and am not ashamed of that fact.  Its a part of not only of how I have grown up, but has also become more and more apart of who I am.  Yes, there were times that I questioned as to whether I was a "true" Christian, namely because of my love of the Harry Potter books and movies and because of other things I have read over the years that wouldn't be considered Christian in a number of circles and the same goes with the movies that I enjoy (I don't think many Christians would enjoy Sideways) and also the fact that I don't listen to a Christian radio station from just across the line and would rather listen to secular music in my car.  I do have a few Christian playlists, but the vast majority of my music would be classified as secular.  But I am starting to find my place as a Christian and understand that not every Christian comes from the same point of view and that there are Christians out there who watch, listen and read more secular material because they find the Christian shows/movies, music, and reading material not satisfying enough for them or they are just not attracted to that material.

Anyways, lets get to what prompted me to write this post.  What prompted me to write this post was due to the fact that a number of parents in Ontario, a large majority of whom are religious, are protesting the fact that the province want to change the curriculum for its sex education in some minor ways, but nothing that in my mind is really radical (you can view what has gotten some parents in Ontario upset here).  Anyways there was a discussion on Facebook about the curriculum this morning and I saw a comment about Christians that angered me (apparently the person who initially posted the comment has taken it down).

Basically it was somebody who clearly didn't like organized religion and in particular Christianity.  It lead me to do a google search on why Christians are marginalized and made to feel like pariahs. And that made me even more angry and I just left, not feeling satisfied.

I suppose I never will be satisfied because I will never find the answer that I am looking for without it being attacked on.  Yes, I feel attacked for my beliefs and yes it does feel personal.  Not only because of my belief in the Holy Trinity (God, Son, Holy Spirit) and other things that Christians believe (God as father, Jesus as his Son,  the virgin birth, etc), but also because I believe that most Christians that I know are generous, kind, tolerant, wonderful people and also very human.  Of course there are yahoos that are full of hatred and are mean-spirited individuals (and there are in every group, no matter one's creed), but on the whole, I find the Christian community to be tolerant, at least the one that I grew up in.

I am not condoning the actions of Christians in the past or the present, ie actions during the Holocaust, the Crusades, the molesting of young boys and girls, the Residential Schools in a number of countries that did extreme harm to Native populations, the depletion of Native populations in places in the Americas, Australia, New Zealand and other places, the exploitation of other humans for material gain (the slave trade) because supposedly they were superior to another race, the disappearance of Native cultures around the world,  and so forth and son on.  But I am saying that Christians are finding that a very small vocal group maligning the beliefs of Christians and if you are to be tolerant of other religious groups, you should also be tolerant of Christianity, even if you don't agree with it.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Pioneer Girl - Laura Ingalls Wilder

Title: Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography
Author: Laura Ingalls Wilder; ed. by Pamela Smith Hill
Pages: 400
Published: 2014
Challenges: Non-Fiction
Genre: Autobiography, Non-fiction
Edition: Hardcover
Source: Personal library

Description:  Pioneer Girl follows the Ingalls family's journey through Kansas, Missouri, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, back to Minnesota, and on to Dakota Territory sixteen years of travels, unforgettable experiences, and the everyday people who became immortal through Wilder's fiction. Using additional manuscripts, letters, photographs, newspapers, and other sources, award-winning Wilder biographer Pamela Smith Hill adds valuable context and leads readers through Wilder's growth as a writer. Do you think you know Laura? Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography will re-introduce you to the woman who defined the pioneer experience for millions.  (via Goodreads

Thoughts:  I can't recall exactly where I first heard about the book, but once I did hear about it, I knew that I would be wanting this book and was almost immediately requested as a Christmas/birthday gift (for those that don't know, my birthday is January 25, hence why I have to request birthday gifts when I am requesting Christmas gifts and yes, I do request what I would like as gifts, as it makes it easier on my parents to know what I want to get and yes I don't get every request fulfilled).  I knew it was something I had to get my hands on, being as I had read all of Wilder's Little House books as a girl and was a big fan of the series.  I suppose the fact that it was promoted as the truth behind the Little House books didn't hurt either.

Anyways, when I was able to sit down and read the book, I really loved the book, despite the numerous annotations that are through out the book.  In fact, I really liked the annotations, as they brought the Little House books to life and also gained knowledge about was changed, omitted, etc. and the reasons behind those changes.

Bottom line: While those who haven't read the series will probably enjoy the book, those who have read the Little House books will probably enjoy the book that much more and enhance their reading experience of the series.  I should note that the book is not geared towards young readers, but rather it is intended for more mature readers (probably teens and up) due to the amount of information that is imparted.  Highly recommended.

Rating: 4.75/5

Pages for 2015:  4,089

Monday, June 1, 2015

20 Books of Summer

Welcome to the 20 Books of Summer reading event, hosted by Cathy of 746 Books. This event involves reading 20 books over the course of the summer. It starts on June 1st and runs through September 4th. My list includes both e-books and physical books and some re-reads and some that I am currently reading.  Learn more about the event here.
The List
  1. Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy (e-book)
  2. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert (physical)
  3. War & Peace by Leo Tolstoy (e-book & physical)
  4. Montcalm & Wolfe: The Duel Biography of Two Men who forever changed the course of Canadian History by Roch Carrier (e-book)
  5. The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches by Alan Bradley (physical)
  6. All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Remarque (physical)
  7. The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot (physical)
  8. Hausfrau by Jill Alexander Essbaum (physical)
  9. The White Queen by Philippa Gregory (physical)
  10. The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert (physical)
  11. If I Stay by Gayle Forman (e-book)
  12. The Wright Brothers by David McCullough (e-book)
  13. The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro (e-book or phyiscal; don't know what I'll get first)
  14. Bring up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel (physical)
  15. Lady of the Rivers by Philippa Gregory
  16. Emma: a modern retelling by Alexander McCall Smith (physical)
  17. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen  (e-book)
  18. The Kingmaker's Daughter by Philipa Gregory (physical)
  19. Gilead by Marilynne Robinson (physical)
  20. The White Princess by Philippa Gregory (physical)

Sunday, May 31, 2015

The Miniaturist - Jessie Burton

Title: The Minaturist
Author: Jessie Burton
Pages 416
Published: 2014
Challenges: Historical Fiction, I Love Libraries, Readers to the Rescue, Snagged @ the Library
Edition: Hardcover
Source: Public Library

Description: Set in seventeenth century Amsterdam-a city ruled by glittering wealth and oppressive religion-a masterful debut steeped in atmosphere and shimmering with mystery, in the tradition of Emma Donoghue, Sarah Waters, and Sarah Dunant.

"There is nothing hidden that will not be revealed…"

On a brisk autumn day in 1686, eighteen-year-old Nella Oortman arrives in Amsterdam to begin a new life as the wife of illustrious merchant trader Johannes Brandt. But her new home, while splendorous, is not welcoming. Johannes is kind yet distant, always locked in his study or at his warehouse office-leaving Nella alone with his sister, the sharp-tongued and forbidding Marin.

But Nella's world changes when Johannes presents her with an extraordinary wedding gift: a cabinet-sized replica of their home. To furnish her gift, Nella engages the services of a miniaturist-an elusive and enigmatic artist whose tiny creations mirror their real-life counterparts in eerie and unexpected ways . . .

Johannes' gift helps Nella to pierce the closed world of the Brandt household. But as she uncovers its unusual secrets, she begins to understand-and fear-the escalating dangers that await them all. In this repressively pious society where gold is worshipped second only to God, to be different is a threat to the moral fabric of society, and not even a man as rich as Johannes is safe. Only one person seems to see the fate that awaits them. Is the miniaturist the key to their salvation . . . or the architect of their destruction? (via Goodreads)

Thoughts: I  had heard quite a bit about this book throughout the late summer and early fall of 2014 and it grabbed my attention, plus the cover that I saw made the book enticing.  Due to other books I was reading at the time, I wasn't able to get the book until this winter.

While it was a fairly quick read for me, I did have difficulty getting into the book at times, especially in the first half, and I seemed to struggle to get through certain portions of the book.

That being said, I did find it an intriguing book, especially since I am planning on going to Amsterdam sometime during the summer of 2016 with my parents and getting a taste of the city myself.

The book started and ended fairly strongly, but it did seem to  hit a lull about half-way through the first part of the book.  While the first half to seem choppy to me, the second half seemed to have a better flow to it and a better focus.

Bottom line: If you enjoy historical fiction, you probably will enjoy this read.  I felt it was a good, but not a great read.  Recommended.

Rating: 3/5

Pages for 2015: 3,689

If you have read the book, what did you think of it?

Station Eleven - Emily St. John Mandel

Title: Station Eleven
Author: Emily St. John Mandel
Pages: 333
Published: 2014
Challenges: Just for Fun, I Love Libraries, Readers to the Rescue, Snagged @ the Library
Genre: Dystopian, Science Fiction
Edition: Hardcover
Source: Public Library

Description: One snowy night Arthur Leander, a famous actor, has a heart attack onstage during a production of King Lear. Jeevan Chaudhary, a paparazzo-turned-EMT, is in the audience and leaps to his aid. A child actress named Kirsten Raymonde watches in horror as Jeevan performs CPR, pumping Arthur's chest as the curtain drops, but Arthur is dead. That same night, as Jeevan walks home from the theater, a terrible flu begins to spread. Hospitals are flooded and Jeevan and his brother barricade themselves inside an apartment, watching out the window as cars clog the highways, gunshots ring out, and life disintegrates around them.

Fifteen years later, Kirsten is an actress with the Traveling Symphony. Together, this small troupe moves between the settlements of an altered world, performing Shakespeare and music for scattered communities of survivors. Written on their caravan, and tattooed on Kirsten's arm is a line from Star Trek: "Because survival is insufficient." But when they arrive in St. Deborah by the Water, they encounter a violent prophet who digs graves for anyone who dares to leave.

Spanning decades, moving back and forth in time, and vividly depicting life before and after the pandemic, this suspenseful, elegiac novel is rife with beauty. As Arthur falls in and out of love, as Jeevan watches the newscasters say their final good-byes, and as Kirsten finds herself caught in the crosshairs of the prophet, we see the strange twists of fate that connect them all. A novel of art, memory, and ambition, Station Eleventells a story about the relationships that sustain us, the ephemeral nature of fame, and the beauty of the world as we know it. (taken from Goodreads)

Thoughts: After seeing this book on a number of lists on a number bookish blogs/sites at the end of 2014, I knew that I had to read this book.  So I took the plunge and requested a copy from the library. And I wasn't disappointed and really got enraptured by the book and felt that by the end of the book that I didn't want to leave the world that Mandel created.

I felt as though Mandel really enveloped me into a post-apocalyptic world that looked strangely like mine.  The language in the book was excellent and allowed me to really experience what that world would be like (hopefully I never experience it).

Bottom line:  I really enjoyed the book, even in a genre that I don't generally enjoy reading from, as I have tried to avoid reading dystopic fiction as much as possible.  In reality, the book is much more literary than genre fiction, as Mandel really uses language to convey what is going on rather than focusing too much on events.  Highly recommended.

Rating: 4.5/5

Pages for 2015: 3,273

If you have read this book, what did you think of the book?

The Last Battle - C.S. Lewis

Title: The Last Battle (The Chronicles of Narnia #7)
Author: C.S. Lewis
Pages: 229
Published: 1994 (first published 1955)
Challenges: Classics Club, Finishing the Series, I Love Libraries, Readers to the Rescue, Snagged @ the Library
Genre: Children's, Classic, Fantasy
Edition: Mass-market Paperback
Source: Church Library

Description: The last battle is the greatest battle of all. Narnia... where lies breed fear... where loyalty is tested... where all hope seems lost. During the last days of Narnia, the land faces its fiercest challenge - not an invader from without but an enemy from within. Lies and treachery have taken root, and only the king and a small band of loyal followers can prevent the destruction of all they hold dear in this, the magnificent ending to theChronicles of Narnia. (via Goodreads)

Thoughts: After reading the other 6 books in the series, I think that I expected a different end and that my expectations were somewhat elevated as to how the series ended, not that I didn't enjoy the journey.  I think that while my expectations were inflated, it was a good way to end the series  This might be a series to revisit down the road by reading the omnibus copy that I own.

Bottom line: The story itself seemed to be ok, but felt it to be a little slow at times.  Overall it was a satisfying ending to the series.  Recommended.

Rating: 3.5/5

Pages for 2015:  2,940

If you have read the book, what did you think?
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