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2013 Best Books of the Year

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It is time for me to present my Best Books of the Year, determined by which books I gave 5 star ratings to on GoodReads this year. 
Americanah - Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Emancipation Day - Wayne Grady Stats Canada: Satire on a National Scale - @StatsCanada A Cinderella Christmas - Holly Kingston A House in the Sky - Amanda Lindhout Crazy Rich Asians - Kevin Kwan Anchorboy - Jay Onrait There's More to Life Than Cupcakes - Poppy Dolan Ghana Must Go - Taiye Selasi Get You Good - Rhonda Bowen Hell-Bent - Benjamin Lorr The Poisoned Pawn - Peggy Blair The Rovers Return: The Official Coronation Street Companion - Tim Randall Ascent of Women - Sally Armstrong
And my choices for Best of the Year:
Best Fiction
Best Non-Fiction
What are your favourite books of 2013?

2013 Year in Review

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It seems like it wasn't too long ago that it was the beginning of the year and I was thinking "oh it's so long until the literary awards season, and so long until I get to make those fun end of the year posts."  Honestly, around last February this time of year seemed so far away.  And yet now, as with almost every year,  I look back and wonder how it all flew by.  So, let's take a quick look back at my year in reading and the things I have learned.

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Once again, it's been an eclectic year.  Biography, literary fiction, chick-lit, cookbooks, CanLit, current events, mystery, even an etiquette book, I once again enjoyed reading many different books.  I think this is the trick to me reading a lot, and with only one DNF this year, I seem to have made a good choice in books.  Were there any trends?  Other than taking loads of chick lit with me on my holidays, I don't think there is anything you can narrow down.

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Here a few of my most-read …

"The Rude Story of English" by Tom Howell

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We use it every day but do we really give much thought as to where it came from?  I’m talking about the English language.  How did it even start?  How did it evolve to what it is today?  And why doesn’t it have a rude history?  That’s right, why isn’t the story of the English language a rude one?
Tom Howell has always wondered why the story of the English language doesn’t have a hero and why it isn’t rude enough.  And like any lexicographer would do, he set out to fix that.  The result is his new book, The Rude Story of English.  Beginning in 449 AD, he introduces us to Hengest, the legendary Germanic warrior who tripped and fell onto the shores of Britain, the man who will take us on the journey through the development of the English language and to what it has become today.  Spoken all over the world, English is a rich and diverse language and actually very rude.
Travel the world, from England to Australia, from Newfoundland to Jamaica, and beyond, and you’ll find that we all share…

Gift Buying Guide

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Christmas is here and everyone is out in full force doing their shopping and buying gifts for their loved ones.  I always give books as gifts and think they're the perfect present for even the most difficult of people to shop for.  And so I share with you my suggestions for book gifts for the different people in your life based on the books I read in 2013.
For the Current Events Aficionado A House in the Sky by Amanda Lindhout and Sara Corbett
For the Science Lover An Astronaut's Guide to Life On Earth by Col. Chris Hadfield
For the Reality TV Watcher Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan
For the Chick Lit Girl Cupcakes at Carrington's by Alexandra Brown
For the Fiction Reader Emancipation Day by Wayne Grady
For the Yogi Hell-Bent by Benjamin Lorr
For the History Buff The Orenda by Joseph Boyden
For the Vegan Skinny Bitch in Love by Kim Barnouin
For the Short Story Devotee HellGoing by Lynn Coady
For the Mystery Reader Just What Kind of Mother Are You? by Paula Daly
For the Family Genealogist The Ju…

"Cataract City" by Craig Davidson

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Owen Stuckey and Duncan Diggs are childhood best friends who grew up in the beautiful town of Niagara Falls.  But to them and everyone else who lives in the town, it’s not the picturesque tourist town it’s known as, it has a grittier side known as Cataract City.  Owen and Duncan think they can make something different of their lives and move beyond the city until an incident occurs over the course of a few nights, changing their lives forever.
As Owen and Duncan drift apart, their lives take very different paths.  And soon they find themselves on opposite sides of the law: Duncan, serving an eight year prison sentence, and Owen, the man who put him there.
Cataract City, by Craig Davidson, takes you behind the bright lights and incredible views of Niagara Falls into a story of two men who are fighting the odds and are not very successful at it.  It takes you into a world where the locals are struggling to get by and into an underbelly of illegal fighting and cross-border smuggling.
The…

"Giada's Feel Good Food" by Giada De Laurentiis

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In her new cookbook Giada’s Feel Good Food, celebrity chef Giada De Laurentiis answers the question she is so often asked - how does she cook and eat all that delicious food on television and still look so fabulous?
To do this she is sharing 120 of her favourite healthy recipes as well as all of her beauty and health secrets.  This is a fantastic, comprehensive book for both experienced cooks and those who are new to the kitchen.  It covers meal, drinks, snacks, and desserts, and there is something in for everyone - including vegetarians, vegans, and those who are dairy or gluten-free.
As someone who is not very skilled in the kitchen, I love cookbooks for new ideas but am often thrown off by how difficult or time-consuming a lot of the recipes can be.  But this book does not have any of that intimidation factor for me.  There are tons of simple recipes like Oatmeal with Cinnamon Sugar; Citrus Parfaits; Cinnamon Kettle Corn; Chewy Granola Bars; California Turkey Chilli; Sole with Lem…

"An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth" by Chris Hadfield

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On December 19, 2012, Canadian Chris Hadfield set off in a Soyuz capsule heading toward the International Space Station where he would serve as Commander, the final act of a lifelong dream that started when he was just nine years old.  It was at that age that he watched the Apollo moon landing from the small town of Stag Island, Ontario and decided that one day he would be an astronaut.  He wasn’t going to let the fact that at the time it was impossible for Canadians stand in his way.
Chris devoted his life to fulfilling that goal.  Even though it wasn’t possible to become an astronaut, he dedicated himself to training as a test pilot with both the Canadian and American militaries while waiting for it to become possible.  When the Canadian Space Agency began selecting astronauts he was ready and able.  And while serving many different roles with the CSA and NASA, he achieved his dream, logging almost 4000 hours in space.
In An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth: What Going to Space T…

"A Cinderella Christmas" by Holly Kingston

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Lucy Tilley dreams of being a famous actress and she knows that everyone has to start somewhere.  But this isn’t what she thought she’d have to do.  
Lucy finally has a part in this years Cinderella pantomime, the hottest show in town.  And to add to that, she’s starring alongside famous TV actor Ryan Aspall, one of the sexiest soap stars around.  The only problem is her part.  She’s not Cinderella, she’s not even one of the stepsisters, no she’s playing the back end of the comedy cow.  
Lucy may not have the best part and she may never be noticed by Ryan but at least she has the support of reality starlet and total diva, Charmaine, who happens to be playing Cinderella.  Sure, her part of the friendship involves running Charmaine’s errands and baby-sitting her dog, but at least she’s rubbing elbows with the (little bit) rich and (semi) famous right?
Only Charmaine isn’t all she seems and before the panto even hits the stage, the drama unfolds backstage.  Will Lucy finally achieve her…

"There's More to Life Than Cupcakes" by Poppy Dolan

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Ellie Redford has a wonderful life with a lovely husband, job, and home.  Everything is perfect for her but to everyone else she is missing one thing - a baby.  The pressure is coming from everywhere, especially her husband Pete.  And it’s not that she doesn’t want a baby….one day.  
With increased responsibilities at work and a best friend who is firmly set against babies, Ellie isn’t sure if having a baby is a good idea right now.  While she tries to figure things out, through the help of an anonymous blog and field research, she signs up for a baking class.  But she’s not prepared for what comes her way in the form of fellow student, the young, hot Joe.  And when a weekly baking class turns into the opportunity to be on a reality cooking show, her personal life becomes even more muddled than before.  
There’s More to Life Than Cupcakes is a funny, smart, and delicious novel from Poppy Dolan.  It is full of fantastic characters, lots of humours, and should come with a warning that a…

"It's Monday! What Are You Reading?"

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It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is a weekly meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.
The last few months I haven't been reading as much as I usually do, even with the excitement of literary awards and best books of the year lists.  But this past week, I got back into a rhythm and I chalk that all up to the fact that I was reading one of my favourite genres - British chick lit!
What I Read Last Week I finally managed to finish Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy.  It's not that it was hard to get to but I kept putting it down and reading another book.  I liked it, but think maybe I built it up too much in mind before I read it. There's More to Life Than Cupcakes by Poppy Dolan and A Cinderella Christmas by Holly Kingston are two brand new books from a brand new imprint called Novelicious Books.  If you're familiar with the Novelicious website you'll be happy to know they are now publishing books!  I loved both of these books, look for reviews this week.
What I Am Cur…

"Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy" by Helen Fielding

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Chick lit’s favourite heroine is back!  It’s been 15 years since we first fell in love with Bridget Jones and life is very different for her now.  A widow, she is raising two children, working on a screenplay, trying to figure out all this new technology, and jumping back into the dating pool.  But somethings never change - her fabulous friends are still by her side, she’s still struggling with her weight, and still keeping a diary.  
In Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy, Helen Fielding introduces us to a 51-year-old Bridget who obsesses over the number of Twitter followers she has, embarrasses herself in front of the teachers and other mothers at school, and in the biggest surprise of all, is dating a 29-year-old name Roxster.  We’ve waited a long time for her return, the question is, is she still the same Bridget we all fell in love with?
First things first, the spoiler heard round the world that had everyone up in arms - Bridget is widowed, Mark Darcy having died a few years earlie…

"The Imperfect Environmentalist" by Sara Gilbert

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Let me start by saying I don’t generally like to read eco-friendly books written by celebrities.  Maybe it’s just me but I wonder how much of it is about their commitment to the earth and how much of it is just about one more thing to add to their resumé.  In other words, I wonder just how much I’ll learn.  But I saw this book by Sara Gilbert and thought, okay, she’s vegan, I’ve seen her on her talk show and heard what she has to say and she sounds really committed, so I decided to give her book a chance.
The Imperfect Environmentalist: A Practical Guide to Clearing Your Body, Detoxing Your Home, and Saving the Earth (Without Losing Your Mind) defies what I think about celebrity books.  Sara writes with knowledge, humour, and authority.  She isn’t condescending (don’t worry, she won’t berate you for not being vegan) but she isn’t light about these things either.  You can tell she is committed to being an environmentalist but respectful of where others stand on the issue.  This book is…

"About A Girl" by Lindsey Kelk

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Tess Brookes has always lived life according to plan but one day it all falls to pieces.  And then her whole life changes from one “what was I thinking” moment.
When Tess accidentally answers her flatmate Vanessa’s phone, she sees a way out the mess her life has currently become.  Realizing that the person on the other end of the phone thinks she is Vanessa, she jumps right in and accepts the photography assignment being offered.  A week in Hawaii is just what she needs and since she used to be an amateur photographer, no one will find out that she isn’t Vanessa.  What could go wrong? 
How about everything.  From the moment she arrives in Hawaii, the journalist on shoot with her is trying to get into her pants, she has been assigned the diva of all models, and the subject of the shoot is nowhere to be found.  On top of this, Vanessa doesn’t exactly have the best reputation in the journalism world.  Will Tess be able to keep up her charade for the whole week or will she give in, ‘fess…

"The Midwife of Venice" by Roberta Rich

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Hannah Levi is a midwife known throughout sixteenth-century Venice for her skill and bedside manner.  In the Jewish ghetto where she lives, women turn to her for the births, especially for her “birthing spoons” which she developed to help difficult births.  
One night, a Christian count appears at her door with the Rabbi.  The Conte's wife is in labour and near death and he believes that Hannah is the only one who can help her.  It is illegal for Jews to give medical treatment to Christians but the Conte is offering Hannah a lot of money, enough money to pay the ransom for her husband Isaac who has been auctioned as a slave in Malta.
Hannah attends the birth but in doing so she brings upon herself the wrath of the Conte’s treacherous brother.  As she seeks shelter with her sister Jessica who has been shunned from the Jewish community, she tries desperately to save not only the life of her husband but her own.
The Midwife of Venice is the first in a historical fiction series by Rob…

"Going Home Again" by Dennis Bock

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Charlie Bellerose has returned to Canada, his marriage failed and his daughter remaining in Spain with her mother.  Upon his return he reunites with his brother Nate, with whom he has had a rather contentious relationship.  The past is the past and as both try to recover from failed marriages, they find themselves becoming a family again.
But a chance encounter with Charlie’s first love Holly brings his past back to the forefront as he remembers his college days in Montreal and the death of his best friend Miles.  While Charlie tries to deal with these memories, his job, and remaining a part of his daughter’s life, Nate finds himself caught up in a bit of trouble, falling for Holly’s sixteen-year-old daughter and bumping heads with his ex-wife and her new partner.  But neither expects what happens next.
Going Home Again by Dennis Bock is a novel about love, divorce, sibling rivalry, parenting, and mid-life crises.  In its pages are lives that are recognizable to most of us, it’s the e…

Two Award-Nominated Canadian Short Story Collections

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In Hellgoing, Lynn Coady presents nine unique stories that present human nature in a funny and incredible way.  A young girl whose religious fanaticism leads her to anorexia and the nun who is charged of helping her, a couple involved in an S&M relationship, a bride who throws herself down the stairs in order to cope, these and many more interesting characters make up this award-nominated collection.
These are stories of flawed people with unusual problems and yet the characters come across the relatively few pages and make you like them.  The theme that runs through the book are people whose inner lives are at odds with the world they inhabit.
While I usually find that when I read a book short stories that a few stories stand out more for me than others, that wasn't the case here.  I thoroughly enjoyed reading every single story.  One really has to wonder what is going on in Coady's head, or who she meets in life, that she was able to bring these characters to life!  I&#…

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

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It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is a weekly meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.
Last week's readathon definitely got me back to reading.  I've been accomplishing a lot more and reading a lot more each day.  It's a great feeling.  Unfortunately, I can't say the same for reviewing.  I really need to get things in gear and write all those reviews that are still waiting around!
What I Read Last Week All three of the books I had started previously so I finished them all.  And The Orenda was such a long one it felt like reading a couple of books!
What I'm Reading Right Now Going Home Again by Dennis Bock What I Plan to Read Next Cataract City by Craig Davidson, The Crooked Maid by Dan Vyleta
If I can get all three books finished this week then I have completed the Giller Prize shortlist.  I'm really hoping to do so, because then I'll be done the entire list before the prize is announced, something I haven't done yet!

"The Orenda" by Joseph Boyden

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Snow Falls, a young Iroquois girl, has witnessed the brutal murder of her family at the hands of a Huron warrior.  That warrior, Bird, sees in her the ghost of his murdered daughter and recognizes the special powers that Snow Falls possesses so he kidnaps her to take on the rest of his journey.  One member of Bird's group is Christophe, a Jesuit missionary who has devoted himself to learning the language and culture of the Huron in the hopes that he can bring them to Christ.
Bird's tribe have long been at war with other tribes but now they are facing a bigger threat, one that comes from overseas.  As we follow Snow Falls, Bird, and Christophe, we see a people desperately trying to hold on to their way of life and a people trying to lead them to a new life.  As these two worlds collide, life changes dramatically for everyone.
The Orenda is Joseph Boyden's incredible new novel that looks at the beginnings of our country and takes readers on an incredible journey into the his…

"Caught" by Lisa Moore

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Twenty-five-year-old David Slaney has escaped from prison.  After being caught in the waters of Newfoundland bringing marijuana back from Colombia, he was sent to jail.  But he's out now and he wants back in the drug trade.  In addition to evading the police and capture, Slaney is heading across Canada to find his old partner so he can make his way to Mexico and back to Colombia.  But he isn't the only one on this fugitive journey, close behind him is a detective who plans to make this high-profile arrest no matter what it takes.
Caught, by Lisa Moore, is a thrilling, fast-paced novel that takes you on an escapade across Canada, down to South America and back and will almost have you cheering for the guy that has escaped from prison.  
Set in the late 1970's, there's a retro feel to the book, making it easy to feel like you're back in a different time.  The way that Slaney and his friend Hearn planned to smuggle drugs into the country had me laughing, thinking &quo…

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

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It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is a weekly meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.
Happy Thanksgiving all!  This is our last day of a four day weekend.  This year we decided to enjoy the holiday just the four of us and not go anywhere.  It's been a wonderful lazy four days.  Saturday was also Dewey's 24 Hour Readathon and I was able to devote a very good chunk of the day to reading.
What I Read Last Week: Caught by Lisa Moore is shortlisted for the Giller Prize and the Roger's Writer Trust Prize this year.  The Midwife of Venice by Roberta Rich is a historical fiction novel about a Jewish midwife who delivers a baby for Christian nobility. 
What I'm Reading Now All three of these books were started last week, two during the readathon.  So this week will be devoted to finishing them.  The Orenda by Joseph Boyden was longlisted for the Giller Prize and shortlisted for the Governor General's Fiction Award.  Hellgoing by Lynn Coady was shortlisted for the Giller Pr…