Friday, May 31, 2013

Armchair BEA Day 4: Non-Fiction

Before I started blogging I was reading mostly non-fiction.  I was a History and Political Science major in university and that has always been my interest.  After leaving school and becoming a stay at home mom I actually missed all that studying so reading non-fiction books kept that connection for me.  There is so much I want to learn about and so many interesting things happening in our world, so I really enjoyed reading non-fiction.  A few of my favourites before my blogging days include Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond, Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, The Autobiography of Malcolm X and The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank.

Here are some of my favourites from my blogging days:


The Stone Thrower by Jael Ealey Richardson
Wave by Sonali Deraniyagala
Falling Backwards by Jann Arden

Funny People

Social Issues
Ascent of Women by Sally Armstrong
Half the Sky by Nicholas Kristoff and Sheryl WuDunn
On a Dollar a Day by Christopher Greenslate and Kerri Leonard

Healthy Living
Diet for a Small Planet by Frances Moore Lappé
Grub By Anna Lappé and Bryant Terry
Ecoholic Body by Adria Vasil

What Non-Fiction book do you recommend to everyone?

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Author Interview: Bailey J. Thompson

I am excited to introduce my readers to a new, young Canadian writer named Bailey J. Thompson.  She has just released her first novel Yellow Socks & Blood Spots and is stopping by here today for an interview.

Please introduce yourself Bailey.

19-Year-Old. Author. Photographer. Dreamer.

Tell us what Yellow Socks and Blood Spots is all about.

Yellow Socks and Blood Spots tells the story of a 17-year-old girl named Isabelle with a tough decision to make.

Abortion is a difficult topic.  What made you want to write about it?

I was just noticing that there aren't as many books out there as I think there need to be. Women go through the decision-making and the procedure every single day, but their literary support is limited.

Why were you originally going to publish it under a pen name?

Two reasons. I wasn't sure how people would react to the book, particularily because of the intensity of the topic and the content of the book, and I feared that it would hurt my reputation as an emerging author. Secondly, I run a children's book publishing company, Gerbil Meets Mouse Publishing and I worried that a child might search my name, looking for one of my children's picture books and instead find Yellow Socks and Blood Spots.

You mentioned that you run a children's book publishing company, Gerbil Meets Mouse Publishing.  Tell us about it.  

It all started with a little victorian dollhouse my parents got me as a child. I would spend my childhood dreaming that I would become small enough to fit in and live in this little dollhouse. One day, when I was in high school, I was going through the basement storage room with my pet gerbil, Mocha who happened to love to sit on my shoulder or in my pocket. When I noticed the dollhouse, it suddenly dawned on me that Mocha could live out my childhood dream. Being the writer I am, that was only the beginning of many hours of story writing. But as I got started, I realized that I wanted my story to be different and that I wanted it to be illustrated with actual photographs of the gerbils on a green screen. Four years later, and a whole series of books ready for publication, I found myself wondering why I would just hand over my masterpiece to a publisher. One Saturday, I caught myself asking my father, "so, what do you think it takes to start a publishing company." He responded, "I don't think you can just start a publishing company." That was enough motivation.

Have you run into any challenges writing novels and running your own publishing company at such a young age?

Reality. The believer in me wants to quit my day job and just run with my dreams, but the realistic part of me knows that success is hard to come by in this industry. Other than that, I think that my age is working for my advantage.  A lot of people are inspired by the fact that I am a 19-year-old running a publishing company, with a novel out.  It makes the daunting task of "promoting yourself" simpler.

What does the future look like for you?

Hopefully bright!!! I plan to focus on Gerbil Meets Mouse Publishing while working on my second (and third) novel.
Thank you for stopping by on your blog tour Bailey.  I wish you great success with this novel and the future.

You can purchase Bailey's novel here:

Amazon Canada
Amazon US 
The Book Depository

Armchair BEA Day 3: Literary Fiction

So I've mentioned before that Literary Fiction is one of the genres that I read a lot from.  That wasn't always the case.  For years (mostly my school years) whenever I had the time to read something that wasn't a textbook I went for easy, light reads.

There was one book however that I read in high school that made a great impression on me - In the Skin of a Lion by Michael Ondaatje.  It takes place in Toronto in the 1920's and 30's and is about the immigrants who physically built this city.  To this day, whenever I drive under/across the Bloor Viaduct (which is very often) I think of the book, even though I read it over a decade ago.  To me, that is what is wonderful and beautiful about literary fiction.

It wasn't until I started blogging that I really began to get into the genre and a world of authors and stories was opened up to me.   Some of my favourite books from years of blogging:

The Long Song by Andrea Levy
The Sky is Falling by Caroline Adderson
Half-Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan
The Imposter Bride by Nancy Richler
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Ghana Must Go by Taiye Selasi
The Dinner by Herman Koch
The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan

What I love most about this genre is the way it takes me into lives I wouldn't otherwise encounter.  You travel the world, meet all sorts of people, and are just swept up into unique lives.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Armchair BEA Day 2: Blogger Development and Genre Fiction

Blogger Development

When I originally started blogging I didn't think I would be as involved in the community as I am.  I didn't think I'd have a twitter account, participate in read-a-thons or read-alongs, host giveaways, or probably ever meet other bloggers.  I figured I'd just write my reviews and that would be it.  But now I'm doing all of the above and more.  I'm still kind of private (I think my face has appeared on my blog only once) and I don't have a whole lot of time to get out to events and such but I am starting to branch out into the community.  It's funny that I'm so outgoing in person but when it comes to my online personality, I'm kind of introverted.  But I like how things are going so for the foreseeable future I plan to keep things the way they are.  Maybe I'll break out of my shell a little bit, if you force me out of it.

Genre Fiction

I'm a pretty eclectic reader here, there are some genres that I won't touch with a ten foot pole but for the most part I'm open to trying different genres.  But at the end of the day I'll always be drawn back to 3 - Can Lit, Literary Fiction, and British Chick Lit.

As a very proud Canadian, how can I not like Can Lit?  As a people we are unique, have an interesting sense of humour, and are a jumble of cultures and that is very apparent in our literature.  If you're looking for something quintessentially Canadian I would recommend Terry Fallis, Will Ferguson, Lawrence Hill, Austin Clarke, and one of my all time favourite books, In the Skin of the Lion by Michael Ondaatje.

If you're looking for something of the moment I highly recommend Cathy Marie Buchanan's The Painted Girls and Ruth Ozeki's A Tale for the Time Being.

Literary Fiction is something I'm becoming drawn to more and more.  I enjoy following the awards season and finding the best of fiction from around the world.  Some of the ones that have I've really loved lately have been Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Ghana Must Go by Taiye Selasi and The Dinner by Herman Koch.

And British Chick Lit…where do I begin?  Probably with the one who started it all, Miss Bridget Jones.  From Helen Fielding, I discovered Sophie Kinsella, then Gemma Townley, Carmen Reid, Lucy Diamond, and my newest favourite, Chrissie Manby, among many others.  Maybe it's because my secret fantasy is to pick up and move to England, maybe it's because my grandmother instilled in me a love for all things British, but to me the best chick lit comes out of England.  When I'm feeling down, I reach for it.  When I've been reading heavy stuff, I follow that up with it. When I'm on vacation, it's what I bring with me.  If it weren't for British chick lit, I wouldn't have read anything but textbooks all through university!

My vacation reading pile, all British chick lit.  Summer can't come soon enough!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Armchair BEA Day 1: Introductions & Classic Literature

Since attending BEA in the US can only be a dream for me I am thrilled that the book blogging community has their own event - Armchair Bea.  Let's get started with the introductions.

1.  Please tell us a little bit about yourself: Who are you? How long have you been blogging? Why did you get into blogging?

My name is Shan, I'm a mum of 2.  I have been blogging for 3.5 years now.  I started because friends of mine were always asking me what I had recently read, in search of a good book to read themselves.  But as I would list every book I had read since the last time we spoke, their eyes glazed over.  I realized I read more than most people I know, and I remembered the personal blog I kept on Xanga all those years ago and I thought a blog would be a great place to put down all my thoughts on books.  Little I did I realize that there was such a wonderful book blogging community or that my blog would become what it has.

2.  Where in the world are you blogging from?  Tell a random fact or something special about your current location.

I live in the fabulous city of Toronto, Ontario.  You may have recently heard about our "interesting" mayor and his ahem, "interests" in the news wherever you live lately but there is so much more to our beautiful city.  Toronto is called the "City within a Park" because we have over 7,393 hectares of green space and 1,473 named parks, many of which I take full advantage of during the summer!

3.  What are you currently reading, or what is your favourite book you have read so far in 2013?

I recently read a book that made me want to declare my favourite book of 2013 right then and there and that is Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.  A close second place is Ghana Must Go by Taiye Selasi.  I am currently reading a book by another fantastic African writer, On Black Sisters Street by Chika Unigwe.

4.  Name your favourite blog(s) and explain why they are your favourite(s)

Leeswammes - as a first generation Dutch-Canadian, I have a soft spot for all things Dutch so that drew me to Judith's blog in the first place.  But I stayed because we have similar (eclectic) reading tastes and I can always count on her for an honest review.

Farm Lane Books Blog - Jackie is a fan of literary fiction and closely follows the literary awards season.  As someone who is getting more and more into this genre, I look to her blog for the best recommendations.

5.  What is your favourite part of the book blogging community?

I love how international it is.  I love that we connect with people around the world who have similar reading tastes and be exposed to great literature from all over the place.  There are so many fantastic events that allow us to travel the world through books and interact with people from so many different cultures.  We all know that the written word can transcend all cultural barriers, and so does the book blogging community.


I didn't read much of the Classics when I was in school.  In our English classes we concentrated more on Canadian literature and Shakespeare was about as much of the Classics as we got.  So when I started blogging I saw the many wonderful opportunities there were to read classic lit and I decided to go for it.  That's why I joined the Classics Club and why I'm using the 1001 Books to Read Before You Die list to choose books.

Some of my favourite classics include 1984 by George Orwell, The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood, and Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen.  As a new convert to reading the Classics my advice to other newbies is to try starting with a genre you really like.  For me, I really liked 1984 so I decided to continue on with the dystopian/science fiction books and I've come across a lot of Classics that I like.  It's kind of eerie and strange to read these books written so long that really seem to predict the way things are going currently.  I think making the connection between what you like now and what was written back then will help make them seem not as daunting.  Don't start with a book just because everyone else loved it, read what you love!

Monday, May 27, 2013

"It's Monday, What Are You Reading?

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is a weekly meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

This past week was packed with stuff to do but unfortunately reading wasn't really one of them.  That is okay though, I'm hoping to get back on track soon.  

What I Read Last Week
The Aftermath by Rhidian Brook (review here)
Studio Saint-Ex by Ania Szado (review coming soon)

What I'm Reading Now

I have been hearing so many great things about An Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra so I'm very excited to be reading it now.

What I Plan to Read Next
The Offering by Angela Hunt is about a woman whose husband dies while she is acting as a gestational carrier for another family.  A few years later she sees a photo of the child and realizes that they may have actually been her own biological child.  Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight is about a mother piecing together her daughter's last day through her technological history after she gets information that her daughter's death may not have been suicide after all.

What are you reading this week?

Saturday, May 25, 2013

"Relish: An Adventure in Food, Style, and Everyday Fun" by Daphne Oz

Daphne Oz may have a famous father but she is quickly making a name for herself in the food and health industry.  As a co-host of the television The Chew, she is committed to making food that is nutritious and delicious as well as living a life that is authentic and purposeful.

In Relish: An Adventure in Food, Style, and Everyday Fun, Daphne shares her tips for living a life that is worth relishing.  To her, Relish is "about seeing your potential and reaching for it.  It's about waking up to the reality of those areas of your life - physical, mental, emotional - you're doing right and those you could be improving." (p. xiii)

The section on food isn't just recipes, she includes tips on stocking your kitchen with both food and tools and how to navigate the supermarket.  The recipes are varied, covering everything from meals to dessert to cocktails.  There is something here for every type of eater.  I haven't tried any of the recipes yet but most of the pages in my book are marked to try.  Many of them look fool-proof for that beginner cook like me while still fancy enough to impress.  I was expecting more recipes but there is still enough to find something you'll like.  

In addition to the healthy, mouth-watering recipes you would expect from a foodie like Daphne, there are sections on fitness, beauty, interior decorating, throwing a party, work, and personal relationships.  She is very much about living naturally in every way possible and it shows throughout.   It is an all in one lifestyle book that will help you bring out the best in yourself and your environment.

I am someone who always gives books as gifts.  From the very beginning of Relish I knew that it would go on the list of books I regularly give to people.  This book is perfect for that young woman you know who is just starting out life on her own.  This will be a gift that she can use in every part of her life and that she will cherish for a very long time.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

"The Aftermath" by Rhidian Brook

It is 1946, the Second World War is over, and the country of Germany has been divided into four zones - British, French, Russian, and American.  The city of Hamburg is in the British Occupied Zone and it is here that Colonel Lewis Morgan is one of the top people in charge of rebuilding the city.  As a higher-up in the military, Colonel Morgan has been requisitioned a house on the banks of the Elbe River to live in with his grieving wife Rachael, and their son Edmund.

But while others are forcing the German owners out of their homes so they can live in them, Colonel Morgan can't bring himself to do it.  Instead, he proposes that the owner, a widower and his teenage daughter, remain living in the home with his family.  This decision leads to a charged atmosphere in which everyone in the home must confront their grief and misconceptions head on.

The Aftermath by Rhidian Brook is a novel about war, loyalty, passion, commitment, and betrayal.  Inspired by the real life story of Brook's grandfather, the book is an exercise in the power of forgiveness.

I found this part of history fascinating to read in novel form.  We know so much about what happened during the war, but for those of us who don't live in Europe, there isn't as much focus on the rebuilding in our textbooks.  Even as a student of history, the de-Nazification program put on by the British in Germany isn't something I knew much about.  What I really appreciated about this book was the balance between history and story.  This book really is about the characters and their stories but I also felt like I learned so much about this time in history.

There is so much to think about while reading this book.  Each character is going through a struggle of their own, affected by the war in so many different ways, and they all take different paths in dealing with their pain.  What I thought was very well-written in this book was that regardless of their past or their "side" you felt strongly for each character.

At the beginning of the book I wasn't sure if it was going to be for me.  What drew me in was the premise of the English and German family living together in the same house so soon after the war.  Then I read the article in The Telegraph about how Brook's own grandfather inspired the book as he found himself in the position requisitioning a home and making the decision to allow the German family to stay.  Knowing that this was a real-life act of kindness really brought the book to life, even if other parts of the book are entirely fiction.

All in all, even in the times where it didn't feel like there was much happening plot-wise this was a book that made me want to continue reading straight through to the end.  It's one of those books that isn't earth-shattering but I'm still glad I made the decision to read it.  There is definitely a lot to be learned here.

The article in The Telegraph can be found here.

I received a copy of this book courtesy of Random House of Canada.  The opinions expressed above are purely my own.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

"Americanah" by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Ifemelu and Obinze met and fell in love as teenagers in Lagos, Nigeria.  Their days were filled with typical teenage going-ons but life under a military dictatorship was no easy one and all of their friends dreamt of going overseas.  When Ifemelu is granted the opportunity to head to America to study, she takes it, planning that Obinze will join her there as soon as he can.  But immigration has changed since 9/11 and America won't let him in.  Instead, he heads to England, where things don't turn out the way he thought it all would.

America isn't what Ifemelu expected either but after suffering a few setbacks, she makes her way through.  The only thing she can't shake is something she never had to deal with back home - the issue of race.  Life for an immigrant Black is much different for Blacks born in America and Ifemelu begins to document these differences in a blog that eventually becomes known as "Raceteenth or Various Observations About American Blacks (Formerly Known as Negroes) by a Non-American Black."  

Her blog becomes wildly successful but eventually Ifemelu feels the pull back to Nigeria. She returns to find out that Obinze has as well only now he is married and a father.   As Ifemelu rebuilds her life back home, she tries to avoid Obinze but eventually her feelings become too much.  As their passion re-ignites, they must make some painful decisions, some of the hardest of their already difficult lives.

Americanah is the latest novel by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.  This novel crosses three continents and many years to share a story of love, race, and identity.  It is a book of observations - of Nigeria, of America, of people who leave and people who stay, of race, politics, and relationships.

I loved this book.  This is one of those books that you pick up, not knowing what it's about but knowing it's going to be good because of the author and once again, Adichie did not disappoint.  Her writing draws you in, the book is over 400 pages long and yet through the entire thing, all I could think of was, "I don't want this to end."  You never feel like it's too long or that it drags on.  With the turn of each page, I was just reminded how much closer I was to the end and how I didn't want that to happen.

This is a book that looks at a culture of not talking about what is in front of us, and she talks about it openly and honestly.  I've had my own experiences with race in America and it's very different from my experiences at home (not in a good or bad way but just different.)  It's a culture that is at times difficult to understand but Adichie really hits on what is going on.  This experience of seeing it through outsiders eyes makes this book accessible to all.  

As this book shows, race is still a tricky subject to talk and write about.   And yet Adichie touches on so much of it without being heavy-handed, insulting, or patronizing.  There are many observations in this book that will get you thinking and talking (I can't tell you the number of times I had to pause and read aloud to my husband.)  But it also goes beyond social commentary and is a coming of age story that will very quickly become known as one of the great love stories written in our time.  A five-star book that is deserving of all of the praise that is headed its way.

I received a copy of this book courtesy of Random House of Canada.  The opinions expressed above are my own.

Monday, May 20, 2013

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is a weekly meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

It's Victoria Day here so it's a holiday Monday and there is no school and everybody is home.  The weather is fantastic so very shortly we'll be heading outside and not coming home until the sun goes down!  And I will definitely be taking a book with me.  Now that the weather is nice, I'm going to have to head out to the balcony and get it all fixed up to be my summer reading spot.  

Last week was the Bout of Books read-a-thon.  It wasn't my best read-a-thon (I think I say that about every one I participate in) but I got some good reading done.

What I Read Last Week
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is an interesting look at race and the immigrant experience in America and will for sure be one of the best books I read this year.  It Happened At the Fair by Deeanne Gist is a historical romance novel set at the 1893 Chicago World's Fair.

What I'm Reading Now
The Aftermath by Rhidian Brook takes place in the British Occupied Zone of Hamburg Germany in 1946 and is about a British Colonel and his family who rather than displace a German family from their home, decide to live in it together.

What I Plan to Read Next
A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra takes place in a village in Chechnya where a doctor risks her life to save a young girl whose father has been abducted by Russian soldiers.  Studio Saint-Ex by Ania Szado is the story of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry when he wrote The Little Prince and the love triangle he was involved in.

What Are You Reading This Week?

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Vegan Cookbooks

First off, I don't label myself when it comes to the food I eat.  I like food and I like for it to nourish my body.  I also like a big bag of chips and a ice cold glass of cola (I'm not picky as to which kind.)  So I don't label myself because I don't need someone calling me a hypocrite when they see me walking into a fast food burger chain (to umm...use their washroom...yeah.)  However, the majority of my diet is plant-based.  So I thought I would share some of my favourite books on eating a plant-based diet, ones that are great for people who are just dipping their toe in the world of veganism, as opposed to people who have been swimming in the pool for years (but these books are still good for them.)

To me, The Plant-Powered Diet by Sharon Palmer, RD, is one of the best places to start.  This book covers everything.  Chapter by chapter it walks you through the world of whole plant foods.  My favourite part of the book is the numerous, easy to read charts that lay out for you the best choices in every category (proteins, non-dairy milks, etc.)  She also includes a template for a food journal that helps to ensure you're getting all of your recommended servings.  Another great feature of this book is it's not just aimed vegans, it is aimed at everyone including people who eat meat but want to add more whole, plant foods to their diet.  Tons of recipes to get you started.

The 30-Day Vegan Challenge by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau is just that, a 30 day challenge.  In one month, this book will take you from omnivore to herbivore.  Not only does it give you invaluable information about veganism, but it helps you make the change gradually rather than all at once.  Each day comes with a few little challenges/changes you can do in your life to make your journey to a plant-based diet easier.  I also like how she addresses how to deal with the people around you when you do it, because I know I encounter a lot of misunderstanding when I refuse meat from others.  Comes with a lot of great recipes and photos, my family ate the Apple Cobbler up.

I think of The Kind Diet by Alicia Silverstone as a book for people who are ready to jump right in (or already have.)  She has great explanations of our food system and why a plant-based diet is a good choice.  She looks at it as a lifestyle and not just a way to eat.  She identifies three ways of going about it: Flirting (just giving it a bit of a try), Vegan (people who want to commit to being plant-based), and Superhero (which emphasizes while grains, organic vegetables, and sea vegetables.)  Included are tons of features on people of all walks of life who are living Superhero lifestyles.  The recipes are a little bit more advanced (lots of ingredients you won't find at your discount grocery chain) but look yummy.  No denying yourself anything here (and her Stuffed Pasta Shells recipe on her Kind Life website are one of my favourite tofu dishes.)

So, if you're thinking of committing to a plant-based diet or just looking for more ideas for meatless meals, I highly recommend picking up these three books.

Friday, May 17, 2013

"In Calamity's Wake" by Natalee Caple

When Miette's adoptive father passes away, she sets out to find the woman who abandoned her.  In the late 1800's and the North American West, she comes across madwomen, thieves, minstrels, and ghosts as she crosses the country in search of her mother, the notorious Calamity Jane.

In In Calamity's Wake, Natalee Caple blends history and fiction to create a novel that transports you to a different time and place and brings to life the Wild West that fascinates us all.

I have never been a fan of Westerns, film or book.  In fact, I've only ever read one other Western book, Patrick deWitt's The Sisters Brothers.  I read it because it was nominated for the Giller Prize and while I loved it, it wasn't enough to draw me to the genre on a whole.  I decided to give it all a try again with this book because I liked the idea of it being about Calamity Jane but with her in the background and not the narrator of the book.

The book jumps between two perspectives, Miette and Martha.  Miette is Jane's daughter and told in the first person, Martha is actually Jane and is told in the third person perspective.  I don't know much about her, really just the name and time period but as I read this book, her story unfolded for me as it unfolded for Miette.  I really enjoyed the way it was written as a discovery of the character rather than just a telling of her story.

There were a few moments in the book that had me flipping ahead, mostly just the inclusion of songs.  I understand why authors include those things in books, especially historical novels, but it's just not my thing.  But other than that I really enjoyed this tale of a woman who I always figured was trouble based on her reputation but actually turns out to be quite the heroine.  Was it enough to make me forget my bias toward the Western genre? Probably not, but I'm definitely one step closer.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Classics Club Spin #2

It's time for the second Classics Club Spin!  The premise is simple - you make a list of 20 books from your Classics Club list you haven't read yet and the wonderful people at The Classics Club will pick a number and you read that book.  Last time I ended up reading Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen (and it was a great read.)

The first time I picked books from different categories but this time I decided to choose 20 books that I have at home on my shelf or on my Kindle.  The number is picked next Monday and I have until July 1 to read.  So here is my list:

  1. The Age of Innocence - Edith Warton
  2. Uncle Tom's Cabin - Harriet Beecher Stowe
  3. Pamela - Samuel Robertson
  4. Never Let Me Go - Kazuo Ishiguro
  5. Alias Grace - Margaret Atwood
  6. Cat's Eye - Margaret Atwood
  7. Native Son - Richard Wright
  8. The War of the Worlds - H.G. Wells
  9. The Time Machine - H.G. Wells
  10. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  11. Journey to the Centre of the Earth - Jules Verne
  12. Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
  13. Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
  14. Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
  15. Family Matters - Rohinton Mistry
  16. Les Miserables - Victor Hugo
  17. Emma - Jane Austen
  18. Candide - Voltaire
  19. The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
  20. The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists - Robert Tressell

"Fahrenheit 451" by Ray Bradbury

In the near future, firemen don't put out fires - they start them.  Books are outlawed and when anyone is found in possession of them, the firemen arrive to burn them and the home they were found in.  

Guy Montag is a fireman who does his job happily and doesn't question what he is doing.  But a chance encounter with his 17-year-old neighbour Clarisse changes that for him.  As she makes observations about the world they live in, he puts up with her but when she asks him if he's happy, it plants a seed in his head.  When Guy and the other firemen arrive at the house of an old woman who has a collection of books, he is stunned by her choice to start the fire herself and go up in flames with her books.  But before all is destroyed, Guy hides one book to take home with him.  This sets in motion a series of events that sees Montag running for his life when he refuses to continue to follow the status quo.

Fahrenheit 451 is the classic dystopian novel written by Ray Bradbury.  Published in 1953, the novel captured the concerns of the time regarding censorship and the suppression of dissenting ideas.  Even today, it stands as a warning and eerie look at our future.

Book burning isn't something new.  And it's strange to think that in 2013 it's something that still occurs.  Occasions like Banned Books week show us that there is still an unhealthy fear of ideas that our different from our own.  It's strange to read this book knowing it was written so long ago and yet captures today's society so well.

This book is short but potent.  As a lifelong obsessive reader it pains me to see people who aren't into reading much.  It seems like more and more reading is falling by the wayside as technology takes over our lives.  And you see that in this book.  As I was reading, all I could think was "we're not that far from this" (which is obviously the point of the book.)  This should be required reading in high schools.  This isn't a book that you simply read, you engage with it, you think about it, and you remain with it long after you turn the final page.

I loved the ending of the book, the hope that it gives for our society, that we can prevent this sort of future.  And it tickles me to no end that people try and ban this book.  All the more reason why everyone needs to read it.

Monday, May 13, 2013

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is a weekly meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

This past week wasn't a good one reading wise for me.  Scratch that, I read a lot, just not really novels.  I started a couple but unfortunately had to return them to the library before I could finish them.  I've also been reading/flipping through a lot of books about going vegan.  I flip back and forth between periods of eating meat and being vegetarian.  And now I'm in one of those vegetarian periods, but this time I decided that I wanted to try going more toward vegan.  I won't label myself that because I don't want to deny myself a bit of dairy when I'm out, but when I'm home and cooking for myself, I'm trying to do all vegan.  I'll post about the books that have been helping me on my journey later this week.

What I Read Last Week
Once Upon a Prince by Rachel Huack is a lovely story about a woman who unknowingly falls in love with an actual prince.  The Little Prince is the classic children's book by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry and I read it as a precursor to Ania Szado's latest novel.

What I'm Reading Now
You know those books where you don't really know what they're about but pick them up because the author is totally amazing?  That's why I'm reading Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

What I Plan to Read Next
This week is the Bout of Books 7.0 read-a-thon so I'm aiming big this week!

What Are You Reading This Week?

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Bout of Books 7.0

The Bout of Books read-a-thon is a week long readathon that starts tomorrow and I'm signing up to participate!  It's pretty simple, you have a whole week to challenge yourself to read more than you usually do and to connect with other book bloggers who are doing the same.

Generally I read about 3 books a week.  Some weeks more, many weeks less but a good week for me is three.  So for this I will be aiming to read 4 books this coming week.  Most importantly what I will be challenging myself to do is set aside one hour each day to commit to reading, one hour in addition to what I usually read in a day.  I'm thinking the hour of 10-11am will be a good one for me.  I will be checking back here each day to post my progress and see how things are going.

Are you ready to read?


Total Pages Read: 1192
Total Books Read: 2 - It Happened at the Fair; Americanah

Pages Read: 170
Books Finished: 0

Pages Read: 299
Books Finished: 1 (It Happened at the Fair by Deeanne Gist)

Pages Read: 30
Books Finished: 0

Pages Read: 65
Books Finished: 0

Pages Read:160
Books Finished: 0

Pages Read: 352
Books Finished: 1 (Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie)

Pages Read: 46
Books Finished: 0

Well, I didn't read the 4 books that I wanted to but looking back it was a lofty goal.  The first two books I read were over 400 pages each!  So I definitely read more pages this week than I usually do, but not more books.  One thing I gained from this read-a-thon was the enjoyment of having one hour each day set aside for reading and nothing else.  I think I'm going to keep going with that!

How was your read-a-thon?

Thursday, May 9, 2013

"Just What Kind of Mother Are You?" by Paula Daly

What would you do if your friends child disappeared while under your care?  

Lisa Kallisto is just plain overwhelmed.  A mother of three and tireless worker at an animal shelter, she is always on the go and always exhausted.  One freezing day in December, in the Lake District of England, Lisa is going through the motions and when she takes her eye off the ball, thirteen-year-old Lucinda goes missing.  And not only that, she's the second teenage girl to go missing in two weeks.

Lisa is consumed with guilt and sets out to do everything she can to find her.  Lucinda's family publicly blames Lisa and she takes that on herself.  But when the first girl turns up and Lucinda doesn't, Lisa begins to discover that the small, quiet town she lives in has many secrets and friends may not be who they appear to be.

Just What Kind of Mother Are You? is the debut novel from Paula Daly. This  book takes every mother's worst nightmare and turns it into a fast-paced thriller.  Beyond the mystery, it's a tale of friendships and power, how the antics we thought we left behind in school can follow us into adult life.  It is a great combination of a relationship novel and mystery.

This is a fantastic debut.  The setting is wonderfully described, you feel the idyllic setting as well as the cold through the pages.  The sense of something terrible happening where you would least expect it jumps right out at you.  I enjoyed how the story was told from different points of view including Lisa's and the female detective working the case, as well as a mystery man fascinated by young girls.  Lisa is incredibly written, relatable and understandable.  Who hasn't found themselves overworked and overwhelmed at some point in their lives?  And to see her bring such pain onto a family she cares about when she never intended it is difficult.

The traumatic nature of the girls missing is also written in a balanced way that imparts on the reader the horrifying nature of the crimes without being graphic.  The twists and turns in the story are also wonderfully balanced.  It doesn't give away too much but also doesn't take forever to develop.  It's just enough to keep the reader engaged right until the very end.

This book is being compared to Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn by just about everyone.  I haven't read Gone Girl so I can't comment to that nature but I will say based on what everyone is saying, if you liked it, you'll like this book.  But if for some reason you didn't like it, I say you should still give this book a chance.  Don't let comparisons put you off, this is a well-written suspense novel and I look forward to what Daly has to offer next.

I received a copy of this book courtesy of Random House of Canada.  The opinions expressed above are purely my own.