Saturday, December 31, 2011

Year in Review

Another year has come to an end! It's time to look back at how well I did on the challenges I set for myself at the beginning of 2011.

Read 100 Books
I aim for this every year. Last year I hit 99. So I figured this year I had it in the bag. And I ended up with.....88. What? I didn't get much reading done this summer, we were busy travelling and just enjoying the two months that no one had school or work. And I hit a nice little slump in December. So something to aim for again in 2012.

Canadian Book Challenge - 13 books
I read 28 for this challenge. I discovered so much fantastic Canadian literature and of course I signed up for the challenge again. So far I'm at 8. (This challenge starts on Canada Day, July 1.)

POC (Persons of Colour) Challenge - 10-15 books
This challenge involved books written by people of colour or involving characters of colour. I read 21, surpassing the goal I set for myself.

Christian Fiction Challenge - 12 books
This challenge involves Christian books of any genre. I came in at 15. Looking back at this challenge I realized I read mostly Urban Christian, but along the way I discovered historical Christian and I think I may be drawn in.

Non-Fiction Challenge - 7 books
I knew I should have picked a higher number. I finished this challenge with a total of 20 books read. There were some great celebrity books out this year!

That is how I did with my reading in 2011. It was a great year for books and I especially enjoyed reading the Giller Prize nominated books. There was some great Canadian talent joining the bookshelves this year. I look forward to what 2012 brings and some new reading challenges for me!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Best Books of 2011

It's time to take a look at the best books I read in 2011. There were a lot of great books but there were some that especially stood out:


Non-Fiction


Falling Backwards - Jann Arden

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? - Mindy Kaling

If You Ask Me: And Of Course You Won't - Betty White

Citizens of Nowhere - Debi Goodwin


Fiction


Touch - Alexi Zentner

The Sky is Falling - Caroline Adderson

Doing Dangerously Well - Carole Enahoro

The Bomber - Liza Marklund

The Sisters Brothers - Patrick deWitt

Half-Blood Blues - Esi Edugyan


(Lot's of Canada in there! It was a great year for Canadian writers, in my opinion.)


And the honours of my favourite book of 2011 go to...


Saturday, December 24, 2011

Advent With Austen Wrap-up

Thank you to Yvann of Reading Fuelled by Tea for hosting Advent With Austen! I must say, I came into this with some pretty ambitious goals and I didn't achieve near what I wanted to. However, I can now FINALLY say that I have read Pride and Prejudice so I consider this a complete success!

In terms of achievement I reached Mr. Bingley status.

I read one book and watched two movies. The book as mentioned above was Pride and Prejudice. The movies were a film adaptation of P&P (the one with Kiera Knightley and though I enjoyed it, I really wish it had been Colin Firth playing Mr. Darcy) and the movie The Jane Austen Book Club (a group of women meet to discuss Jane's books...great idea, not great movie in my opinion.)

I wish I had read more however I have downloaded all of Jane's books to my e-reader and look forward to reading them in the future!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Fall Into Reading 2011 Wrap-up

I went into Fall Into Reading 2011, hosted by Callapidder Days, with great intentions of clearing of my shelf of books I own but haven't read yet. And as the season comes to an end I look at my shelf and it still looks pretty much the same way it did back in September. I've done quite a bit of reading in the last few months, just not from my shelf. In fact, the pile on the shelf grew during this time.

I had two lists of books I wanted to read - one for this blog and one for my Christian book blog. I managed to read 3 books in total, one from my Christian blog and two from here. Which hey, that's still 3 off the to read shelf and permanently shelved on the big bookcase, right?

I had also wanted to read 50 French books with my daughter. Well, I kind of forgot about that so I didn't count. But we have done a lot of reading over the past few months and her collection of French books is always growing so I'm confident we did well in this area.

If there is one thing I've learned recently, timed reading challenges in which I decide which books I will read ahead of time just don't seem to work for me. I spend more time preparing for the challenge than I actually do reading for the challenge! That's ok though. Even though I didn't read as much as I had planned and I did get some books read and that is an accomplishment.

How did you do?

Monday, December 19, 2011

Holiday Break Reading Challenge Day 4

The Holiday Break Reading Challenge 2011-2012 is hosted by Julie and Karin at Edifying and Edgy. It's day 4 of the challenge, and this is my first post. The challenge for today is to explore a blog that highlights your preferred genre.

The blog I have chosen is Read for Pleasure. I have come across the blog before never fully explored it. I'm glad I chose it for this challenge. The blog fits my reading personality perfectly! There a various genres covered but it's obvious there's a great love for chick lit. It also focuses on Authors of Colour and the blog author loves reading about different cultures.

I like that her reviews are short and to the point, no spoilers, and very honest. Makes choosing a book very easy (and is guaranteed to grow you TBR list by miles!) The layout and design is great. There's lots there, but it's not crowded, doesn't take a long time to load and has a clean, pretty feel. A new favourite blog of mine!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

"Pride and Prejudice" by Jane Austen

I feel strange writing book reviews for classic books. Chances are you know the book (even if you haven't read it) so I'm not telling you anything new about it. And it's a classic so it seems pretty obvious there are lots of reasons to read it. So what else can I add?


Does this review of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen even need a plot summary? Here's a quick one: five sisters with a mother obsessed about marrying well; dashing, eligible suitor and his cold, prideful friend; vanity, prejudice, love. That should be enough to make anyone pick up the book.


Most people are shocked to find out that I have never read this book. I've always been pretty surprised of that myself and as I began reading it, I couldn't understand why I hadn't picked up the book sooner. Right from the start I was hooked. The characters are fantastic. Elizabeth is a strong, independent woman that everyone would love. Jane is sweet and endearing. Mr. Bennet is hilarious, I can only imagine one needs a sense of humour when they are the father of five daughters, especially of the younger ones. Mrs. Bennett, Mr. Darcy and the Bingley sisters got on my nerves from the start, but I think they gave me the most smiles because all I could think was "wow, times haven't changed at all."


The language may have changed since Jane Austen wrote the book but the themes remain the same. The vanity and behaviour of Mr. Darcy and the Bingley sisters isn't surprising as it still exists today. Same with the high-reaching obsessiveness of Mrs. Bennet.


The only thing that bothered me about the book was the length of it. Or more the fact that it could have done without some parts of the story. A few of the journeys/visits I personally felt could have been shorter (or not at all.) But other than that I can't find much to criticize about the book. It's a fabulous look into history and the place of women in it. Times have changed a lot and we may have all loosened up a bit, but when it really comes down to it, human nature is always the same.

Friday, December 9, 2011

The Dreaded Reading Slump

I am in the midst of a full blown reading slump. At first I thought it was just because of all the stuff going on here - Sinterklaas, my daughter's 5th birthday, her birthday party plus the usual school, appointments, errands. But as I began to get downtime to just sit and read, I still didn't want to. I'd sit down with a book (and a cup of tea) and after one page I'd be looking around for other things to do.

So I apologize if you don't see many reviews here in the next few weeks. I'll try to post about other bookish things, and hopefully I'll be out of this slump soon. I'm looking forward to the new year and the new books and challenges it brings.


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

"Children of the Waters" by Carleen Brice

Raised by her grandparents, Trish Taylor always believed that her mother and younger sister died in a tragic car accident. Years later as she is recovering from a divorce and facing racism head on with her biracial teenage son, she discovers that her childhood was based on a lie. Her mother had fatally overdosed and her grandparents had put her baby sister up for adoption because the child was half-Black.


Billie Cousins has lead a charmed but difficult life. Raised by strong Black parents whose success came on the back of hard work, Billie has drawn on the strength of her ancestors to get her through her battle with lupus. Her dream of having a baby finally comes true but her pregnancy is a nightmare for her partner Nick. When Billie discovers that she is adopted and her racial heritage is not what she thought, her world threatens to come crashing down around her.


Children of the Waters by Carleen Brice is novel that covers a wide range of topics - abandonment and adoption, self-esteem and acceptance, race and definition. And yet with all the heavy topics it covers, it is a book that flows easily and you find yourself finishing it in no time.


The chapters alternate between Trish and Billie from before they discovered they were sisters and through the process of connecting and coming to terms with their new identities. Through it all the story looks at what race relations are really like in our current day, how "old" attitudes still influence our lives, and how to move forward.


This was a wonderful read, and as I mentioned before it is a fast read. It's not because the book is without substance but because you don't want to put it down. What I really appreciated about the book was its honesty about race. I often find that books written on this topic by authors of all races are unfair in the portrayal of one race, that stereotypes often abound. And while you do get a glimpse of that in this book (the white women at Billie's African dance class killed me!), it's not an unfair generalization attributed to everyone, and Billie and Trish represent the honest thoughts of many people. Most importantly, Brice shows the reasons why peoples thoughts are this way, and how our experiences and environments inform our views of the world.


This is a fantastic read and I highly recommend it. Also, check out Carleen Brice's fabulous blog, White Readers Meet Black Authors.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

"Celebrity Shopper" by Carmen Reid

Personal Shopper Annie Valentine is back and she is busier than ever! Her television series How Not To Shop is in its second season, her husband Ed is at home taking care of her two older children and their baby twins, their house is under renovation (there are holes in the walls and the ceiling), and her mom is living with them. Just as she thinks she has things under control a nosy tabloid reporter begins snooping around her life and Annie finds out she's in danger of being replaced as host of her own show. So what does Annie decide to do to save her job? Walk in the Scottish hillsides in three-inch heels of course!


Celebrity Shopper by Carmen Reid is the fourth book in the Annie Valentine series. Annie is a personal shopper determined to provide a good life for her children while enjoying the many perks of working in the fashion industry. Life isn't always easy for Annie and she certainly finds herself in a lot of trouble, but it's nothing she can't handle!


I've really enjoyed the Annie Valentine books so far. For me they are as fun as Sophie Kinsella's Shopaholic series and Meg Cabot's Queen of Babble books. There is nothing I enjoy more than a good chick lit series. While I enjoyed this offering by Carmen Reid I have to admit that I did get pretty annoyed with some of the characters throughout the book. First with Annie as I really felt like her priorities were out of whack. I get that she's the breadwinner for the family right now and I don't have anything against working mothers, I just felt like she didn't fully understand the magnitude her actions were having on her family, and that she didn't care much. The second character I was annoyed at was Ed. He needed to seriously man up and stop being so antsy when it came to raising the kids. Yes, I understand what being a first time parent is like and I can't imagine doing it with twins but seriously, he needed a kick in the pants!


Those annoyances aside, this was still a great read. The Paris fashion show scene is hilarious. Annie's friend Svetlana is a sidekick dream come true. And the Scottish hillwalking scene is an accident waiting to happen. Overall this is a fun read, a quick escape, and another enjoyable offering from Carmen Reid.