LibraryCin's Roundtuits 2020+

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LibraryCin's Roundtuits 2020+

dec 29, 2019, 3:15 pm

Starting a new thread for my Roundtuits, as the previous one is pretty long.

See my Roundtuits read in 2016:

And from 2017-2019:

I will continue to use 2+ years on the tbr for my Roundtuits, though next year I may make it 3+ years, instead.

jan 5, 2020, 2:09 am

1. The Forgotten Explorer / Charles Helm, Mike Murtha (editors)
3 stars

Samuel Fay was an American hunter who explored the Northern Rocky Mountains (North and West of Jasper, Alberta) over a few years, in 1912, 1913, 1914. His longest trip was 4ish months between the end of June and November, 1914, when he was hunting and collecting wildlife for the US “Biological Review”. The bulk of this book is Fay’s journals while on that trip, though the foreword is someone else’s summary/account of the trip, and there are appendices that include articles Fay wrote about his travels afterward.

I hadn’t realized before starting the book that Fay was a hunter and that was the purpose of his travel. I don’t like hunting. I did enjoy the descriptions, especially of the wildlife; I just kept hoping the next sentence after any wildlife was mentioned wouldn’t be along the lines of “so we shot one (or more)...”. I think I won the book at a conference, and it’s just been sitting here, waiting for me to read it for a while now. It’s not a long book (page-wise), but I was kept from reading it for a long time due to the tiny font in the book! It’s now done and I will donate the book. Overall, I rated it ok.

jan 12, 2020, 4:13 pm

2. Dead to You / Lisa McMann
3.5 stars

Ethan was only 7-years old when he was kidnapped. He’s now 16 and being reunited with his family – his parents, his younger brother, and a younger sister who is only 6-years old, whom, of course, he hadn’t met until now. Every family member has to learn to deal with this, as they all learn to live together again, after so many years apart. Things definitely are not going smoothly.

I like the premise of this book and liked most of the book itself. I wasn’t a fan of the ending. I feel like the penultimate event that happened “fit”, but I didn’t like the result of that event, what happened at the very end. It’s YA, so it was very fast to read.

jan 15, 2020, 10:39 pm

3. No Will But His / Sarah A. Hoyt
4 stars

This is a fictional story of Kathryn Howard, Henry VIII’s fifth wife. Kathryn was still a teenager when she became Henry’s wife (and he was up in years). It wasn’t long that they were married before she was arrested and beheaded for trysts with a few men, some from before she’d even met Henry.

I haven’t read a lot about Kathryn, and I never had a good impression of her. This one, however, gave me a bit of sympathy toward her. Unfortunately, the author’s note didn’t address how much was known and how much was out of the author’s head; I was particularly interested in how much was known from before she came to court. Despite that, I still quite enjoyed it.

jan 17, 2020, 11:20 pm

4. Triangle / Katharine Weber
2.5 stars

Esther was working at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in New York in 1911 when it burnt down. Her sister and fiancee both died in the fire, but she managed to get out. She was pregnant at the time. In current day, she is 106-years old. A historian, Ruth, has been interviewing her to find out more about the fire. When Esther passes away, Ruth contacts Esther’s granddaughter, Rebecca, to find out how much she knew.

I didn’t find any of the characters likable. The whole music thing with Rebecca’s husband was boring – way too much detail on that, and it really didn’t seem necessary. The info about the fire itself was interesting, but retold a few times in a few different way (interviews, trial transcripts, etc). The very end confused me a little; I may have it figured out, but I’m not positive. The current-day storyline was definitely not one I was interested in, though of course, the fire itself (even if I didn’t like the way it was told), was the best part of the book.

jan 26, 2020, 4:19 pm

5. Michelle Remembers / Michelle Smith, Lawrence Pazder
3 stars

This was published in 1980. In 1977, Michelle Smith recounted repressed memories (from when she was 5 years old in 1954/1955) to her psychiatrist (co-author Lawrence Pazder). This book follows that therapy. When Michelle was only 5, her unstable mother gave her away to a cult of Satanists to be abused and used in various rituals.

So, I’ve owned this since I was in high school, but I don’t think I read it back then. The first half was more interesting than the second half, when Satan appeared. The second half got much more religious, and it was less interesting to me. Now, this has since been debunked, and I found that out in the middle of reading it, but I don’t think it affected my rating (though it appears that many rated it 1 star, simply because it’s not true); I actually didn’t want that knowledge to affect how I rated the book.

jan 27, 2020, 11:10 pm

6. Caught / Harlan Coben
3.75 stars

Dan is set up by a reporter who is out to catch a pedophile. The charges are later dropped, but Dan’s life is ruined. Meantime, a teenage girl has gone missing. Wendy, the reporter who set things up on Dan, thinks there is still something going on and won’t give up until she finds out what it is.

It’s actually hard to summarize this one, as there are a few things going on. For the most part, though, as with most of Coben’s books, I was kept turning pages; I wanted to keep reading. As usual, there were plenty of twists and turns. Although I didn’t figure out any of the twists, for some reason (I have no idea why), I didn’t feel shocked at most of them. They were a surprise, but the twists didn’t blow me away, like they usually do. I’m just not sure why the end underwhelmed me.

feb 1, 2020, 1:03 am

7. Confessions of a Counterfeit Farm Girl / Susan McCorkindale
3.5 stars

The author, her husband and two sons (7 and 14-years, I think) were living in New Jersey and Susan was working in New York City when they decided to move to a farm in rural Virginia. Susan had to give up a very high paying job, though she wasn’t enjoying it anyway, for her husband’s dream of being a farmer.

It was meant to be funny, and parts were humourous, but not a lot was laugh-out-loud funny for me. Despite the title, the author really didn’t do any farming (at least not as reported in the book); her husband did it all. She did a lot of shopping, when she got into nearby towns and cities. I’m not into fashion at all, so any brand names she threw out there, I just assumed were shoe brands, as shoes seemed to be her favourite shopping/fashion item. Some of the acronyms, I wasn’t sure about.

Despite my comments so far, I did enjoy the book, overall. It did make me realize that although I grew up in a small town (farming community, but not on a farm), it would be hard – even for me, the homebody and nonshopper – to move back. Not for the same reasons, but other shopping items might be tricky to come by (products not tested on animals, for instance).

feb 11, 2020, 10:00 pm

8. Split Estate / Charlotte Bacon
3 stars

After Arthur’s wife, Laura, kills herself by throwing herself off their balcony in New York, Arthur decides to take his two teenage kids to Wyoming, where they will all stay with his mother on what land she has left that she hasn’t sold (can’t really call it a ranch!). The kids have to learn how to fit in to this rural area, as well as figure out how to deal with their grief.

It’s told from all four characters points of view: Arthur; his mother Lucy; his son Cam; and his daughter Celia. It’s kind of slow, but a decent story. I liked the different points of view that explored their new life in Wyoming, as well as thinking back on each of their relationships with Laura. I wasn’t real happy with the ending, though.

feb 16, 2020, 2:09 am

9. Cat Sitter on a Hot Tin Roof / Blaize Clement
4 stars

Pet sitter Dixie is watching (with the help of her elderly friend, Pete), a service dog to a little 3-year old boy (who needs to be in the hospital for a surgery). Next door, Dixie meets Laura, a beautiful woman who recently moved in. Dixie and Laura quickly become friends when Laura reveals that she recently left her husband and is hiding from him. It’s not long before Laura is found murdered in her house.

This is a pretty good rating for a cozy mystery from me (often they are 3 or 3.5 stars). It’s a light book and a light series, but I really enjoyed this one. Of course, I love the pets in these stories and I love some of the secondary characters – Dixie’s friends and family – particularly her brother Michael, and his partner, Paco.

feb 18, 2020, 12:29 am

10. You Are Here: Why We Can Find Our Way to the Moon, but Get Lost in the Mall / Colin Ellard
3.5 stars

In this book, the author, a psychologist with a particular interest in navigation, explores why humans are so bad at finding their way. In the first section of the book, he compares us to various animals: birds, ants, bees, wasps, sea turtles, and more. In the second section, he looks at places/spaces like our houses, workplaces, cities, cyberspace and green spaces.

This was interesting. There were a few places where I tuned out a bit (during some of the scientific explanations mostly, but not all), but mostly I found it interesting. It’s no surprise that most animals are much better at navigation (for various reasons) than humans are. This was published in 2009, so the cyberspace chapter may be a bit outdated already.

feb 23, 2020, 11:53 pm

11. World Made by Hand / James Howard Kunstler
3 stars

The world has run out of oil. There has been illness, and not a lot of people are left. Robert is living in his small world in Union Grove, New York. People don’t get very far from where they live, anymore, without vehicles. There is a settlement closeby with a criminal leader, where most of the townspeople avoid. A religious cult has just moved into the abandoned high school. When Robert heads toward the closeby settlement with a friend to buy some supplies, things go terribly wrong and Robert’s young friend is shot and killed.

Despite starting off with a “bang” (so to speak), I found the book moved really slowly. It was ok. There was a bit of weirdness involving the religious cult toward the end, but the happenings picked up a little bit (with a horrible thing happening!). Overall, it was still an interesting read on people trying to get by on a much older way of life – without electricity and so many other modern conveniences as we are used to.

feb 26, 2020, 10:49 pm

12. Endangered / Eliot Schrefer
5 stars

14-year old Sophie is half Congolese and half American. She mostly lives in Miami with her father, but comes back to the Democratic Republic of Congo to live with her mother in the summers. Sophie’s mom runs a bonobo sanctuary. On the way to the sanctuary, Sophie insists on buying a baby bonobo from a trafficker. She only wants to save the little bonobo she calls Otto, but she doesn’t initially realize that although she has helped Otto, overall, it’s not a good idea to buy from the traffickers.

In any case, she is now in charge of taking care of Otto and helping him live. Not long before Sophie is to head back to Miami, her mother has to leave to release some of the bonobos back into the wild. Not long after her mother leaves, civil war breaks out...

Of course, I love animals, so right off the bat, I’m loving the bonobos and the sanctuary. Once the war starts, it is almost non-stop suspense. Not only – how will Sophie get out of this, but what will happen to Otto and the other bonobos? Keep Kleenex handy. Ugly crying all the way. Loved this book! There is also an interview with the author at the end. And, I am happy to see that this is part of a series.

feb 29, 2020, 1:02 am

13. The Cat, the Quilt and the Corpse / Leann Sweeney
4 stars

Jillian comes home from an overnight trip to find that not only has her house been broken into, one of her three cats is missing! When the police come, they find that there is nothing else missing. Was Syrah catnapped or did he head outside on his own? Only one of the police is interested in helping figure out if Jillian’s cat was stolen and was the reason for the break-in, but she is quickly taken off the case, so she and Jillian set off to see what they can figure out on their own. Jillian is certain Syrah was stolen.

I really enjoyed this one. The cats seemed extra-involved somehow, which of course, made it more fun for me. And there were a lot of them. I suppose they were a bigger part of the storyline, due to the catnapping. I liked some of the additional characters and some not-so-much. There was one conversation near the start of the book between Jillian and her new policewoman friend, Candace, where I rolled my eyes a bit and thought – neither woman is the brightest bulb, is she? But, it got (much) better.

mar 4, 2020, 11:00 pm

14. Lime Tree Can't Bear Orange / Amanda Smyth
3.25 stars

Celia’s mom died just after Celia was born, and she was raised by and lives with one of her aunts (and her twin cousins) in Tobago. Aunt Tassi lives with an awful drunk man whom no one likes. When Celia is a teenager, she runs away to Trinidad and finds work in the home of a doctor, helping with the housework and caring for the two kids. But, Celia can’t seem to keep herself out of trouble.

The book was ok. It was kind of slow-moving, and there weren’t very many characters whom I actually liked (Celia included). There were a couple of interesting “twists” at the end.

mar 8, 2020, 11:51 pm

15. Lost in NYC: A Subway Adventure / Nadja Spiegelman, Sergio Garcia Sanchez
4 stars

Pablo and his family have just moved to New York City. His first day at his new school, he discovers the class has a field trip planned on the subway to the Empire State Building. Although he is paired up with a buddy, Alicia, they get a bit lost when they accidentally get on the wrong train!

This is a graphic novel and it was very good. There is history of the subway and the Empire State Building, along with real historical photos included. I’ve only been to New York once (and I was on the subway, but found it pretty confusing!), but found the information really interesting. The story itself was also about friendship, but really I think the point was the historical information (geared toward younger readers, but still really interesting).

mar 10, 2020, 10:33 pm

16. Her Little Majesty / Carolly Erickson
4 stars

When Queen Victoria was a child, she was treated fairly coldly, and mostly “used” by her mother and a friend of her mother’s, knowing that she would likely be on the throne one day. This backfired on them when Victoria did reach the throne just after her 18th birthday. She married a cousin she loved, and once they were married, he did most of the political work, but he died young. Victoria mourned for the rest of her life for Albert. They had 9 children. Victoria varied on whether or not she got along with various elected Prime Ministers over time. She ruled for decades and she lived to be 81 years old.

I really liked this. The book is not that long, so I’m sure there was plenty left out, but I thought it was very readable and almost read like fiction. Despite all her kids, I didn’t have too much trouble following who was who, but maybe the author made sure to remind us? I didn’t notice. I have read a couple of fictional works about her, but this, I think, is the first nonfiction. I liked some of the extras thrown in about things that were happening at various points in time over the course of Victoria’s life, including fashion.

mar 10, 2020, 10:49 pm

17. The Thorn Birds / Colleen McCullough
3 stars

This tells the story of three generations of a family based on a ranch in Australia. Fiona (Fi)’s daughter Meggie (short for Megan) falls in love with the local priest when she is only 10 or 11 years old. The priest, Rafe(?), seems to also fall for Meggie as she grows up. Meggie goes on to marry a neglectful husband, Luke, but she misses home too much and leaves him to return, but only after having two kids of her own, Justine and Dane.

I listened to the audio. It was fairly slow all the way through. It did pick up – at least enough so that I didn’t lose focus – particularly after Meggie got married, I thought. I wasn’t as interested in Rafe’s point of view. That was some of when I lost interest, during his parts. (Oh, look – see what happens when you listen to the audio... apparently his name was Ralph! And for a while, I couldn’t tell if it was Rafe or Wraith!) I’m not sure I really liked any of the characters. Looking at some of the other reviews, it seems there was romance? Hmm, really? I didn’t notice. Overall, I’m rating it ok. For a while, I thought about upping that to good, but I’m dropping it back to simply ok. I did like that the audio kept my attention (mostly, especially after Meggie and Luke got married). It was mildly entertaining.

mar 15, 2020, 3:33 pm

18. The Woman Who Can't Forget / Jill Price
4 stars

Jill Price can remember everything she did and any major or minor events that took place on any date from the time she was about 11 years old. Before that, she remembers some, starting from when she was 2- or 3-years old. Problem is, the memories bombard her all the time; it just doesn’t turn off. When she was younger, she didn’t know this wasn’t the case for everyone. But, as she got older and tried to explain, people didn’t understand.

Her memories include both the good and the bad, everything. This book explains what’s going on in her head, then goes back to explain how it has affected her at various points throughout her life.

I found this really interesting. I don’t understand the low ratings, though from reading reviews, it seems like some didn’t like the biography/memoir part of the book, but I thought that really illustrated things. Apparently, she was the first person (in the early 2000s?) diagnosed with this: what they called “hyperthymestic syndrome”, but there are others now, as well. Scientists have been studying her (and she seems happy to have them do so to figure out how her brain works), and papers have been written about her, using a pseudonym.

mar 19, 2020, 10:52 pm

19. The Brief History of the Dead / Kevin Brockmeier
3 stars

When someone dies, there is a place – a city – they go until the last person who remembers them dies. Then they disappear from the city. In alternating chapters, this book is in that place, alternating with Laura, who is stuck in Antarctica. She is by herself, as the two others she was there doing research with went for help when they could no longer radio home. But, they didn’t come back, either. What Laura doesn’t know is that an epidemic has hit the rest of the world.

I was ready to rate this 3.5 stars (good), but I dropped it right at the end. I mostly preferred following Laura’s story in Antarctica to the chapters following the various people in the “dead” city. But, the last chapter following Laura was just... weird, I thought.

Redigerat: mar 26, 2020, 10:20 pm

20. After Visiting Friends / Michael Hainey
3 stars

Michael Hainey’s father, a “newspaperman”, died when he was only 35, and Michael only 6. As an adult, Michael took a look at the obituaries, but they didn’t really “line up”. There was something odd, and he wanted to find out how his father died. He and his family (mother and brother) had only been told he’d died on the street, after visiting friends.

It was ok. It was a somewhat interesting search for the author to find out what had happened, but I didn’t like the writing style. He wrote in very short choppy non-sentences (well, some were sentences!). It also jumped around in time quite a bit, maybe more in the first half (that, or I got used to it and didn’t notice as much in the second half). The short sentences and short chapters made it quick to read.

mar 26, 2020, 10:20 pm

21. Giant George / Dave Nasser
3.5 stars

George was the runt of his litter, a Great Dane who came home with Dave and Christie when he was only 7 weeks old. By the time he was fully grown, though, he was almost 250 lbs! (Almost 100 lbs larger than the average adult Great Dane!) He was also very friendly and loved people. George eventually made it into the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s tallest dog.

This was a good story. He’s a sweet dog. There are photos included, as well.

apr 1, 2020, 11:29 pm

22. Beyond Belief: My Secret Life Inside Scientology... / Jenna Miscavige Hill
4 stars

Jenna is the niece of the head of the Church of Scientology. From a young age – 6 years old, I think – her family was very high up in the Scientology world, and this kept her mostly separated from her parents as she and her older brother were indoctrinated into the Church. It seems their lives were very different from what they call “public Scientologists”, who mostly live normal lives, but are part of the Church. They really didn’t get to be kids.

I really knew nothing about Scientology before reading this. Wow, crazy – the manipulation – of kids, no less! I guess you brainwash from a young age... There is a lot of terminology (and acronyms) that she has to define, and much of it I forgot, even as I read the words (or acronyms) later, but mostly had the gist of them (but there is also a glossary at the back). Of course, I would like to read more now. I think I have one celebrity biography on the tbr, so hopefully I can get to that one sooner rather than later.

apr 5, 2020, 4:36 pm

23. Out of America / Keith B. Richburg
3.75 stars

The author is a black reporter, and in the early 1990s, represented The Washington Post in Africa. He was excited to go, to follow his “roots” in Africa. In his three years there, he experienced the civil war and famine in Somalia, the genocide in Rwanda, the many corrupt authoritarian and dictator “governments”, kids in the streets bearing AK-47s. He thought about his African-ness vs his American-ness, and came home (as many reporters in Africa do) beaten down.

The first part of the book is more about his childhood. He grew up in inner-city Detroit in the 1960s and 70s. Initially, he was a minority in his neighbourhood, but that changed. While he continued to go to school with mostly white kids and had friends there, he hated choosing “sides” between his white school friends, and his black neighbourhood friends.

The book included specific chapters on Somalia and Rwanda, and later on, South Africa (and the relative success of the introduction of democracy there vs the mess of it in the rest of Africa). He also has lots of examples throughout the rest of the book on the health care and AIDS in Africa, and plenty on the politics and governments of various countries.

I found the country-specific chapters more interesting, as well as the health care one, rather than the political chapters. I think it was because there are just too many names to remember and who is related to which country/city, etc. I also found the author’s own thoughts and introspection on what he encountered in Africa and his own feelings about being black and being American vs having those African roots. I also found his own biographical details quite interesting.

The edition I read came out in 2009, though it was originally published in 1997. So, this one had an additional foreword, written shortly after Obama was elected president.

apr 10, 2020, 2:50 pm

24. American War / Omar El Akkad.
3 stars

It’s 2075. Tomboy Sarat (Sara T.) and her family live in Louisisana, one of the border states to the “Red”/Southern zone of the US. The Free Southern States are a group of only 4 states that are defying the order to not use fossil fuels. This will lead to the Second American Civil War. Not long before the war starts, Sarat’s father tries to get papers to travel north, but the building he is in is blown up. Sarat’s mother manages to get them on a bus heading to a refugeee camp in Georgia, one of the Red states.

I liked the first half, but I didn’t like Sarat as she grew up. I didn’t like her; I didn’t like the people she was associating with/learning from; I didn’t like the things she was doing. It was a bit boring for a portion after the refugee camp, where the focus of the book really was on the war. (Trying to stay away from spoilers!), it got slightly better for a bit, but I was confused toward the end. Not sure I liked the end, either. Overall, I’m considering it ok.

apr 13, 2020, 10:55 pm

25. A Cast of Killers / Sydney D. Kirkpatrick
3.5 stars

In 1967, movie director King Vidal decided he wanted to make a movie about the 1922 murder of a silent film director William Desmond Taylor. The murder was never solved. So, Vidal started doing his own investigating. Prime suspects, at least in the media, included actresses Mabel Normand and Mary Miles Minter, as well as Minter’s mother, Charlotte Shelby. Vidal looked at media, police reports, and did many interviews (of people involved who were still alive). Vidal never made his movie, so Sydney Kirkpatrick took a look at Vidal’s notes to write this book.

It was mostly interesting, but there were still dry parts in the book, so I did lose focus occasionally – although that may also be, in part, due to plenty of things on my mind. The book also includes biographical information on many of the main “players”. I’ve only read one other book that included info about this murder – have to admit, I don’t recall if there were any theories in that book, but this one certainly sounds quite plausible to me.

apr 17, 2020, 11:25 pm

26. Hands Like Clouds / Mark Zuehlke
3 stars

Elias is the coroner in the small town of Tofino, on Vancouver Island in British Columbia. When a local environmentalist/activist (or “ecoterrorist”) is found hanging from a tree, the initial thought is suicide, but Elias quickly figures out that Ian was strangled before he was hung. The local RCMP, though, is busy preparing for a US Senator to tour the area, looking at the ancient rainforest (and the already clear-cut sections) that the logging companies want to continue to raze.

Especially with the environmental angle, I had hoped this would draw me in more. The mystery itself was interesting, but the characters weren’t as much so – at least to me – until at least the second half of the book. Zuehlke puts a lot of description in the book, which does paint a clear picture of Vancouver Island, but it’s a bit too much for me, overall. I did love the setting, though.

apr 23, 2020, 10:51 pm

27. Go Down Together: The True Untold Story of Bonnie and Clyde / Jeff Guinn.
4.25 stars

Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker (later known as “Bonnie and Clyde”) both grew up extremely poor in the slum of West Dallas, Texas. They both loved their families very much and visited as often as they possibly could, even while on the run. They knew they would die young, likely violently. They stole fancy cars, and robbed some small banks and small stores and gas stations, which really only gave them enough money for food and gas. They had very little left over, and mostly had to sleep in “their” car. When they had extra, they often brought it to their families.

I knew nothing of Clyde and Bonnie beyond their names and that they were criminals/gangsters on the run in (I thought) the 1920s (it was actually only for a couple of years in the early 1930s). This book was so well-researched. I feel like, if it’s not (it might already be), it should be the go-to book about the two of them. Their crimes did mostly start off as robberies and stealing cars, but in their haste to not get caught, there were shootouts and people got killed. There were a few other murders thrown in that weren’t part of shootouts, as well.

It was slow to read, but nonfiction often is. That being said, it was fascinating and I was interested all the way through. Now, there were multiple confrontations and shootouts, so I did get a few confused toward the end, and some of the criminals who came and went from the “Barrow Gang” also got a bit confusing, but overall, this was really good. There was also a section of photos included in the middle.

apr 25, 2020, 9:20 pm

28. Big Cherry Holler / Adriana Trigiani
3 stars

This is the second book in the series. Marginal *****SPOILER***** for the first book . Ave Maria and Jack have now been married for 8 years. They have a daughter, Ella, and lost a son 3 years ago. Jack is a coal miner, but he comes home one day to let Ave know that the mine will be shut down and he is out of a job. Put that together with the continued grief from the loss of their son, this puts an additional strain on their marriage.******END SPOILER******

It was ok. Not as good as the first one, in my opinion, particularly the first half. It picked up a bit in the second half, but I was annoyed with both Jack and Ave for much of the book. I am undecided on whether or not I’ll read the 3rd book... I probably will, anyway.

apr 26, 2020, 11:34 pm

29. The Fact of a Body / Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich
3.5 stars

The author thought she wanted to be a lawyer. She had known since she was a child that she didn’t believe in the death penalty. When she took a position in a firm in Louisiana that defended people on death row, she was shown a video of a confession by Ricky Langley, a pedophile who murdered a 6-year old boy in 1992. She learned of the story just after his second trial that found him guilty of second degree murder, which took the death penalty off the table, although his original trial had put him on death row. The author then had to face her own family history, and writes in this book about both Ricky’s life and trials, as well as her looking back on her own life and confronting what had happened to her.

It took a bit at the start to get “into it”, as I couldn’t figure out where the two stories intersected, or why she went back and forth between the two. It’s a good thing she started each chapter with a place and year, as she did jump around quite a bit between time periods in both her and Ricky’s lives. It took me a while to get interested in her own story, particularly, but it did get more interesting as the book went on.

apr 28, 2020, 10:53 pm

30. Seeing Voices / Oliver Sacks
3 stars

Oliver Sacks takes a look at deaf people in this book. There are three sections. The first one focuses on history (how deaf people were treated, communicated with (if at all), etc.), the second on the brain/psychology/science, and the third on deaf culture, with a focus on a deaf university.

It was ok. I don’t know anyone who is deaf, but I was always interested in sign language, at least from high school, when a friend and I got a book out of the library to try to teach ourselves. I later (15-20 years ago) did take an actual class. But, the book itself – some parts were interesting, particularly the culture/university section, but I found other parts quite dry (the middle section). The book is short; almost half of it is Notes.

maj 1, 2020, 4:28 pm

31. The Book of Joy / Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu, Douglas Abrams
3 stars

Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Douglas Abrams (who had collaborated with Tutu over a number of years) headed to India for the Dalai Lama’s 80th birthday and to spend a week discussing joy and how to get there, and celebrating his birthday.

I’m not much into self-help books (this was a gift), but I enjoyed the relationship between Tutu and the Dalai Lama, the camaraderie, the humour. I loved the photos of them dancing, smiling, laughing. For those interested, there is a section at the back that includes meditations and ways that both religious leaders wind down and contemplate things. Overall, the book itself, for me, was ok.

maj 6, 2020, 10:36 pm

32. Mary, Queen of Scots and the Murder of Lord Darnley / Alison Weir
3.5 stars

Mary, Queen of Scots was suspected of murdering her second husband, Lord Darnley. Darnley died in an explosion, but it was definitely murder. Many people at the time thought she’d done it, as well as many historians since. Weir looks at many sources to try to sort out whether or not Mary was, indeed, involved. This does pretty much amount to a biography, with a strong focus on events as relating to Darnley.

This is a long book! With lots of detail. That being said, I went back and forth between being really interested and falling back a bit with some of the detail. Now, Weir really was looking at a lot of information to try to sort out who was involved. Boy, talk about “fake news” of the time! And sham trials with a political bent (i.e. predetermined outcome)... Overall, I’m rating it good, but it does take a while to read.

maj 8, 2020, 11:46 pm

33. Alone / Richard E. Byrd
4 stars

In 1934, the author headed to Antarctica to spend a few months on his own inland (while people he was working with were a ways away, and they were in radio contact on specific days/times), while taking weather readings at various times throughout the days. They had built him an underground shelter to live in. In June, as it got colder outside, things started to get dicey for the author. This book includes his memories, as well as some excerpts from his diary while there.

It took a little bit to get going, as I wasn’t as interested in the technology in how they built his shelter and such, but once it was built and the rest of the crew left Byrd alone, it got much more interesting. The cold, oh, the cold! Described very well. (Of course, it’s relative when anywhere from 0 to -30F was “warm”! The coldest day was -83F) He was there over winter, so between April and October (this book covers April through August when he was on his own). It read in kind of a conversational tone, which I liked.

maj 10, 2020, 1:43 am

34. Whiter Than Snow / Sandra Dallas
4 stars

In 1920, an avalanche hit the mining town of Swandyke, Colorado, just as school let out. There were kids on the street, just heading home, as the snow came tumbling down... The book starts by letting us know this, then backs up to find out about the lives of some of the parents (and one grandparent) of those children. Then, the book leads up to the avalanche itself.

There was no historical/author’s note, so I had to look this up to see if it really happened. It appears that Swandyke was a real town; now it’s a ghost town with some items and buildings, but I couldn’t find any mention of an avalanche that buried children there. However, this is a really good story. It was easy to get the characters mixed up a bit, as there were so many, and with one chapter on each family’s history, it took a minute when they were mentioned again to remember who was who. Even still, I enjoyed all of those families’ stories, though one stood out a bit more than the others for me (the black man working at the mine who had a young daughter).

maj 13, 2020, 11:23 pm

35. The Price of Everything / Eduardo Porter
3 stars

The subtitle is: Solving the Mystery of Why We Pay What We Do. This is nonfiction and consists of chapters such as “The Price of...” Things, Life, Happiness, Women, Work, Free, Culture, Faith, and Future.

Have to admit that it was interesting as I read it (most of it), but unfortunately, it’s already fading. I won’t remember it. The conclusion (most fresh in my mind) does refer to the 2008 financial crisis quite a bit, and hopes that people will have learned a few things. I do wonder what the author would write now, after things have shut down due to COVID, and are just now starting to reopen for the economy.

maj 17, 2020, 1:33 pm

36. Grounded: A Down to Earth Journey Around the World / Seth Stevenson
4 stars

Seth and his girlfriend Rebecca decide they want to travel all the way around the world by surface travel (i.e. no flying). They set out via ships (cargo and cruise), buses, trains (regular speed and bullet trains), and bicycles. Their journey takes them across the Atlantic Ocean, Germany, Estonia, Moscow, across Siberia, down to Japan, China, Cambodia, Thailand, and back east to and across Australia to New Zealand and back to the US. (And I know I’ve missed some places!).

I really enjoyed this (though I disagree on his assessment of cruise ships!). There were some funny moments. Although, despite the leisurely travel pace, there were times where they really seemed rushed, and weren’t able to enjoy where they were. I guess some of it depended on the timing of the travel away from where they were, as it was sometimes difficult to find a way to their next destination, so unless they wanted to wait a week, they might have to continue on right away. He did talk about the different modes of transportation, the history, etc, which I also found interesting.

maj 21, 2020, 10:43 pm

37. The Witches of New York / Ami McKay
3.5 stars

It is the 1880s. 17-year old Beatrice heads to New York to try to get an advertised shop girl job at “Tea and Sympathy”. It turns out the ladies who run Tea and Sympathy (Eleanor and Adelaide) are witches, and Beatrice is showing tendencies towards such, as well as seeing and hearing ghosts. We learn about all three women, their histories, and how things go forward at this time in NYC while the three are considered witches.

I liked Beatrice’s story, in particular, but what I wasn’t crazy about was all the different changing perspectives of so many different characters. I don’t like when I’m a good chunk of the way in and a new character is introduced and I have to try to fit them in. This happened quite a bit in this book, as there was a lot of flopping all over the place, following all the different characters. Toward the end, the story picked up speed a bit, so overall, I’m still rating it good.

maj 23, 2020, 9:58 pm

38. Green River, Running Red / Ann Rule
3 stars

In the early 1980s, the Seattle area had a serial killer running around, mostly killing prostitutes. True crime author Ann Rule, by then having published her book on Ted Bundy, lived in the area, and followed very closely what was happening. The killer wasn’t caught for almost 20 years, but when DNA testing came available, he was not only caught, but he admitted to many more murders than they would have been able to link to him via DNA.

Unfortunately, I (once again) ended up with an abridged audio. I was only a kid in the early 80s, and not in the area, so it was more recently that I heard of the Green River killer. The book was interesting, but I would have liked to have listened to the entire book. It did seem to jump abruptly from talking about the victims to following the killer’s life. Not sure if the book actually felt that way or if it felt such because it was abridged.

maj 23, 2020, 10:13 pm

39. The House of Doctor Dee / Peter Ackroyd
2 stars

Two storylines – Matthew has inherited a house from his father in the current day (book was published in the early 90s), and there is a brief mystery in figuring out whom it once belonged to. Turns it out, Doctor John Dee once lived there (during the time of Queen Elizabeth’s reign in the 16th century). No idea what the Doctor Dee storyline was all about.

This was incredibly boring, especially the Dee storyline. I have no idea what happened in that part except that (I think) his wife, Katherine, was sick. He was apparently a doctor (and possibly a “sorcerer” of some type?). Anyway, not really worth the time, in my opinion.

maj 25, 2020, 11:17 pm

40. Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet / Mark Lynas
4 stars

In this book, the author divides the chapters to look at what would happen as the global average temperature rises 1 degree Celsius, 2 degrees, 3, 4, 5, and 6 degrees. More fires and drought in California and Australia. Melting of ice sheets in the Arctic and Antarctic. Melting of glaciers in mountainous regions in Pakistan, Nepal, and China near K2 and Everest, leading to less runoff for places that rely on that water. Water levels rising to wipe out New Orleans, put more of New York and London underwater, hurricanes and flooding in Houston, Gakveston, New York. Sand dunes and no water in Africa. All of these causing humans to starve and die or to move to other places already suffering themselves who won’t want newcomers to take up the precious resources that remain. Oceans and forests will be taking on more carbon than they can handle, often speeding up the warming and other consequences.

The author used scientific models and peer-reviewed articles to research this book.

I really liked the way he organized this book. Unfortunately, in the conclusion, he talked about ideally reducing emissions in the next decade. The book was published in 2008, and as far as I’ve been paying attention, things have (really, to no surprise, sadly) only gotten worse. There is no slow down, let alone reduction in emissions, I don’t believe. I feel like this is something everyone should read to educate themselves.

maj 29, 2020, 10:36 pm

41. Powder Burn / Carl Hiaasen
3 stars

Architect Chris Meadows gets caught up in a drug war in Florida when he witnesses an old flame and her daughter get hit (and killed) by a car. He unwittingly ends up the next target, as he was a witness and can identify the people responsible.

Unlike Hiaasen’s other books, this one did not include humour, nor did it have an environmental theme. I do believe this was co-written with someone else, as well. There was one brief “scene” near the end that was somewhat amusing. I don’t think I really liked any of the characters (including Chris, aka “Meadows” (I am also not a fan of referring to characters by last name only)). Not my favourite topic – drugs – and not as good as the others I’ve read by him. At the same time, I’d consider this one “ok”.

jun 1, 2020, 2:19 am

42. Great Cat Tales / Various Authors
2.5 stars

This is a book of short stories, poetry, and I think some short nonfiction essays by various authors (including Jerome K. Jerome, Rudyard Kipling, Lewis Carroll, Mark Twain, Edgar Allan Poe, and more), all about cats.

I’m just not a fan of short stories. I don’t know why I have the book (my guess is a gift?). Everyone knows I love cats, but short stories just mostly don’t hold my interest much. There were a few that I liked. Overall, though, it may have been that I was trying to read quickly, maybe that I just know I’m not “into” short stories and didn’t give it enough of a chance, via mostly skimming through. Likely if I’d slowed down and taken more time to pay attention, it would have garnered a better rating from me.

jun 6, 2020, 1:46 am

43. Fire in the Turtle House / Osha Gray Davidson
4 stars

Beginning in the late 1970s, green sea turtles were appearing in very high numbers with tumors on them. Turtles in Hawaii, Florida and the Caribbean, independently. There weren’t many, but there were a few, who wanted to find out what was causing this.

Sea turtles (or any turtles) are one animal I’ve not read much about. Although, this was more about digging to find what was causing the tumors. (I’ll give you two (broad) guesses and the first one doesn’t count.) This book was published in 2001; I can’t imagine things have gotten better in the meantime. This has been on my tbr for ages – I have no idea why it took me so long to read it.

jun 9, 2020, 2:36 am

44. Kingdom Under Glass / Jay Kirk
3.5 stars

Carl Akeley (1864-1926) was a famous taxidermist, most notable for setting up dioramas at the American Museum of Natural History. He spent much time in Africa with this two successive wives, on hunting safaris, looking for the perfect specimens for scientific posterity.

I had a bit of a hard time with this. It’s an interesting story and he had an interesting life (he also invented a few things, one of them highlighted in the book being a video camera to take nature videos), but I had a really hard time with the hunting – in my mind, it was just glorified trophy hunting. So wasteful – he would kill animals, but not even use them because they were not exactly what he was looking for for his imagined displays for the museum. He later did help start a sanctuary for gorillas, but only after he’d killed the ones he wanted, and he continued to kill other animals after. It did read like fiction, but the author has notes at the end to explain where he got much of his information and where he “expanded” and how he came to decide on telling it that way.

jun 11, 2020, 12:24 am

45. Missing / Frances Itani
4 stars

In France, Luc was 12-years old in 1917 when he saw an air battle between one British and two German planes. The British plane came crashing down and Luc ran towards where the pilot landed. He was only able to notice/discover a few things before Germans shoo-ed him away, but enough to find out the pilot’s name, nationality (Canadian), and to collect a few souvenirs before heading home. Back in Nova Scotia, Jack Greenway’s parents are worried for their only son who went off to be a pilot in this war.

This is a very good short story. I would have loved for it to be longer, still, to be able to put more detail into the story. This was based on true events. Itani is a very good writer of war stories.

jun 14, 2020, 4:58 pm

46. Kiss of the Fur Queen / Tomson Highway
3 stars

Champion (later Jeremiah) and Gabriel are Cree, living in northern Manitoba. When they are young, in the ‘60s, they are sent away to a residential school. This book follows them beyond the residential school as they grow into adults.

There was some magical realism in the book, which I’m not a fan of. It didn’t make sense to me. The book skipped ahead – skipped years in their lives – quite a bit. That is, we’d get a very brief time at their age, then suddenly (without any real indication beyond a new chapter or part), we would have advanced years. Some of it was good and held my interest, but much of it was also very vague, and you had to figure out what was going on... it wasn’t clear. I hate that. Despite this mostly negative-sounding review, I am rating the book “ok”, for the parts that I liked.

Redigerat: jun 28, 2020, 2:58 am

47. Cat & Mouse / James Patterson
4 stars

Serial killer, Gary Soneji, is out of jail and looking for revenge on detective Alex Cross. He wants to kill Cross and his entire family. But, before doing so, he is leading up to it with other killings and taunting Cross. Meantime, Cross is attracted to his kids’ principal, but she is hesitant to date someone with his job.

I really liked this one. I remember the name Soneji, but don’t really remember details of him in the other books (this is 4th in the series), but it’s not necessary to remember anything about him to enjoy this one. If there was anything from the previous book(s) I needed to know, I was reminded of it. I liked the potential relationship between Alex and Christine.

Redigerat: jun 28, 2020, 2:58 am

48. Lady of Sherwood / Jennifer Roberson
4 stars

King Richard the Lionheart has died and his brother John is now king. The Sheriff of Nottingham is desperate to be sure he is still employed. Robin Hood and his friends, once pardoned by King Richard, are now outlaws once again, and must hide in Sherwood Forest. The Sheriff is upset with Marian and wants revenge. Robin’s father is not healthy, but the two don’t see eye-to-eye on anything.

I liked this much better than the first one. It took a short bit at the start to get “into” it, but once I did, I really liked this one.

jun 28, 2020, 2:58 am

49. Dark Tide: The Great Boston Molasses Flood of 1919 / Stephen Puleo
3.75 stars

In 1915, a giant tower meant to store molasses was built in Boston, near the water, near the train tracks, right beside a poor and crowded area of the city. In January 1919, the molasses burst from the tower, creating a wave that eventually left 21 dead and many more injured.

In addition to info on the tower and the disaster, the book included information on politics at the time and other happenings (the war, the Spanish flu). It followed a few families who were affected or who had some “doings” with the tower, who later testified in court. It had information about anarchists at the time (the company that owned the tower blamed anarchists for dropping a bomb in the tower causing the flood).

I found the parts about the families, the people involved, the flood itself, and the trial after to be quite interesting. Where I lost interest (and the book lost a quarter star) was in the political discussion and the anarchists. I read the ebook, which apparently came from the slightly later paperback edition, which included an additional afterword. This was interesting, as the author described letters he received from descendants of many of the people involved.

jul 4, 2020, 4:23 pm

50. Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed / Jared Diamond
3.5 stars

Diamond looks at different societies -- some historical, some current -- to see what they’ve done in order to survive/succeed. Some have disappeared. This includes current-day Montana, the Vikings (in Iceland, Greenland, Newfoundland, some of the smaller islands nearer Europe...), Easter Island and other Polynesian Islands, the Mayans in Mexico, Haiti/Dominican Republic, Australia, China, Japan, New Guinea, Rwanda... He looks at some of them in more detail than others.

And I found some stories more interesting than others: Montana, Vikings, Easter Island, Rwanda, Haiti/Dominican Republic. He had a few chapters at the end that looked at business – the economy “vs” the environment. I was surprised to hear about how one of the big oil companies is set up in New Guinea – to the benefit of the environment around the area!
Too bad more oil companies didn’t do similar (or too bad it wasn’t required that they all do better, as it apparently can be done).

I do have a hard time rating a lot of nonfiction 4 stars and higher. I think those that I rate that high read more like fiction, this one was good, but it didn’t read like fiction.

jul 6, 2020, 11:20 pm

51. The Hate U Give / Angie Thomas
4 stars

Starr is a black girl who lives in a black neighbourhood, but goes to a white school. When she is in a car after a party with one of her black friends, they are pulled over by a cop, and Khalil ends up being shot by the police officer. Starr talks to the police about what happened – Khalil didn’t deserve to die – but decides to not let on to others she knows that she was the one with him when they were pulled over. She continues to lead a double life until things start coming out.

This was really good. I listened to the audio and the narrator was very good. This really does show the unfairness (to put it mildly) of racial profiling and the overreactions of police towards a black teenager. I have to admit there was one part where Starr got really upset about something racist her white friend said – I didn’t even know it was a racist thing (fried chicken?). There were humourous parts in the story to lighten things up a bit, which I thought were done really well. I am happy (for the most part, except one thing) with how the book ended.

jul 8, 2020, 11:52 pm

52. Storm Warning: The Story of a Killer Tornado / Nancy Mathis
4 stars

On May 3, 1999, Oklahoma saw multiple tornadoes, including one of the biggest to hit a city. All the years leading up to it, though, had meteorologists, most notably Ted Fujita (Mr. Tornado), studying tornadoes. This helped with warnings (although for a long time in history until the 1950s (after another deadly tornado in 1947), weather forecasters were not even allowed to say the word “tornado”!) that could help people take cover. The book not only looks at the tornado in 1999 (and the one in 1947), but also looks at the history of weather forecasting – with a focus on tornadoes – and at the life of Ted Fujita (who created the Fujita scale).

It got a bit bogged down in the history at the start of the book (but, I was also having trouble finding larger chunks of time to read, which can help me focus), but it got better as the book went on. Of course, when we hit the 1999 tornado, no question – this was the best part of the book. I still found the rest quite interesting, though

Redigerat: jul 12, 2020, 3:16 pm

53. Outlaw / Angus Donald
4.25 stars

A minor character in the Robin Hood tale, Alan Dale, tells this story. When only 13 “summers” old, he manages to escape his sentence of a hand being chopped off (as a thief), and ends up with Robin Hood and his men in the forest. He is given training in fighting and music, and is with them on many of their adventures, including saving Marie-Anne from having to marry the sheriff.

This was surprisingly violent and quite unlike any other Robin Hood story I’ve read or seen. Granted, I’ve not read very many, but still. Robin Hood. himself, is portrayed quite differently from what I expected. I really liked this one, though. Interesting that I often am not all that interested in war/fighting scenes, but the big one in this book really had me engaged. I don’t know if it was something with the story itself that I was more interested, or if it’s the way the author writes, or something else, but this was really really good for me.

It is a series and I will continue. Hopefully I’ll like the next one, though. It does concern me that it seems to be about the Crusades – again, we have that war/fighting bit that often I end up skimming and being bored by, so hopefully it holds up as this one did.

Redigerat: jul 19, 2020, 12:21 am

54. The Great Halifax Explosion / John U. Bacon
4 stars

On Dec. 5, 1917, two ships collided in the Halifax Harbour. One of them was loaded down with explosives, meant to head to Europe for the war effort. Instead, with the collision, a good chunk of Halifax and neighbouring Richmond were wiped out in an instant, along with a couple thousand (likely a low estimate) people, and more thousands injured.

This was very well researched. It does include some discussion of the war, and a soldier from Nova Scotia who ended up helping out after the disaster, as he was back home after being severely injured. Also includes a detailed account of the ships and crew involved in the collision, as well as tidbits of time of some of the civilians on shore who were affected (lost family members, lost homes, injuries...).

jul 19, 2020, 12:21 am

55. A Bone to Pick / Charlaine Harris.
3.5 stars

Aurora Teagarden is a librarian and used to attend meetings of the Real Murders club in her town. They disbanded, but she knew (somewhat) the elderly Jane from the club. When Jane dies, Aurora is surprised to learn that Jane has left everything to her (except her cat and a bit of money). Aurora suddenly owns a small house, and has plenty of money. But, she finds an odd item in Jane’s house and isn’t quite sure what to do with or about it...

I quite enjoyed this! I really liked the guy Aurora started dating and I loved that she now has her own house. It’s a short/quick read.

jul 23, 2020, 12:21 am

56. The New Jim Crow / Michelle Alexander
3 stars

This book takes a look at mass incarceration in the US and, in particular, the effect on black men.

Well, sorry, but I imagine mine is not a popular opinion. I’m not convinced. Although she tried to link it to black men, most of what she talked about holds true for all criminals with a record. She ties some things to people of colour, but not everything (unless I missed it, which is possible, given that I listened to the audio). I actually agreed with some of the laws, and such, though many of the laws and sentences are ridiculous, no question. I certainly don’t agree with any type of racial profiling, however.

I listened to the audio which may have made a difference. It’s hard enough to read a bunch of stats and such, but maybe harder still to listen to it. By the end, though, I was really tired of the phrases “mass incarceration” and “black caste system”. I was likely also tuning out more the longer the book went, so I very well may have missed a number of arguments.

jul 23, 2020, 12:36 am

57. Deep Freeze / Lisa Jackson
4.5 stars

Jenna was an actress until an accident on her last movie. She quit and left for a small town in Oregon, after divorcing her husband and taking her two teenage daughters with her. Unfortunately, there seems to be a serial killer in the area, and Jenna seems to be the target of smaller crimes.

Probably not the most exciting summary, but I was really hooked on this one! I could call it a mystery, a thriller, suspenseful, and horror. I added in horror after reading one night before bed and having to convince myself to get up and do the nightly routine, including heading to the basement to clean the cat litter! Didn’t want to head down there... Although she wrapped up this book, at the end she started up what will be the second book in the series. I had already decided if it was a series, I’d be continuing; she didn’t need the cliffhanger to convince me.

jul 26, 2020, 6:51 pm

58. Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things / Randy Frost, Gail Steketee
4 stars

The authors are psychologists who were the first to really study hoarding behaviour. This tells of some of the psychology of hoarding and presents many case studies of people they worked with. Hoarding is usually associated with OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder), but the authors feel that it should be its own category.

People who hoard show different symptoms of different mental health disorders, including OCD, perfectionism, anxiety, and more I’m forgetting. People have different reasons they present for not wanting to get rid of their things, including not wanting to be wasteful, growing attached to their belongings, and more. Their families are affected. The case studies in this book include children of hoarders and how they are affected, as well as children who are, themselves, hoarders. One chapter also looks at animal hoarding.

I can see myself, just a tiny bit in some of the traits the authors present in their case studies, but I don’t go anywhere near the extremes of people who really are hoarders. I found this so interesting.

jul 26, 2020, 7:11 pm

59. Jane / Aline Brosh McKenna, Ramon K. Perez
4 stars

This is a graphic novel, modern-day retelling of Jane Eyre. Jane is an orphan who manages to leave the unloving home where she grows up to move to New York City to become an artist. While at school, she finds a job as a nanny to a girl whose mother has died and her father is never around.

This was really good. In addition to being a very well-told story, the illustrations are really well done and easy to follow.

jul 29, 2020, 3:49 pm

60. Daisy Fay and the Miracle Man / Fannie Flagg
3.5 stars

Daisy Fay is an 11-year old growing up in Mississippi in the 1950s. Her parents don’t always seem to get along. Her dad drinks, and doesn’t seem to have much luck with the businesses he sets up. It’s told in diary/journal form when Daisy Fay is 11, 15 and 17/18 years old.

It was good, but nothing special. There was some humour. Still not exactly sure who the “Miracle Man” is.

Redigerat: jul 30, 2020, 2:46 am

61. Iron Kissed / Patricia Briggs
3 stars

Mercy is a shapeshifter (coyote) who was raised by werewolves. She is brought into a fae community to help sniff out a murderer. Somehow someone Mercy knows who is not the murderer (or was this a retaliation murder?) is arrested, so Mercy is trying to help find who is the (one of the?) real murderer(s?). In addition, Mercy is torn between two men, one the alpha werewolf.

Listened to the audio, and I had a hard time focusing (that may be obvious from my summary!). Enjoyed what I paid attention to, but I’ll try to remember not to listen to another audio in this series, for as long as I continue the series. I’ll at least try the next one (not audio) and see if I want to continue after that at all.

jul 30, 2020, 5:03 pm

62. Red Bones / Ann Cleeves
3 stars

When this small Shetland Island sees two deaths in a very short time, one apparently accidental, and one a suicide, the police begin to wonder. Mima, an older lady who owns the land an archaeological dig is happening on, is accidentally shot and killed. And not long after, one of the people working on the dig appears to have committed suicide.

There are a lot of characters and I had a hard time keeping some of them straight, especially as to how they related to each other. I did think the book picked up in the second half when the second body was found. Or, really, when it appeared the person was missing. For the first half of the book, I thought it was time to give up on the series, but with the second half, I think I’ll do one more. Just not on audio. This one wasn’t, but I’ve read one of the others on audio, and that is definitely not the way to go for me for this series.

aug 6, 2020, 12:38 pm

63. In the Devil's Snare / Mary Beth Norton
2.5 stars

In addition to looking at the accusations and trials of the “witches” in the Salem, Mass. area in the late 17th century, this author looks at other things happening in the area at the time to see if there is a connection. Specifically, the First and Second Indian Wars happened in the years leading up to the witch accusations and trials.

I do find the Salem witches an interesting topic, but a number of nonfiction books I’ve read about it (including this one) have not held my interest. I do find it hard, sometimes, to read books with a lot of quotations from other sources, and this one (and other books on this topic) has a lot of that.

aug 21, 2020, 6:12 pm

64. Enchantments / Kathryn Harrison
2 stars

This fictional book follows one of Rasputin’s daughters after he has been murdered. She (a teenager by this time) goes to live with the Romanovs and is there (I think) when they are taken away before they are murdered.

I can’t really tell you much more than that. I listened to the audio and it did not hold my attention at all. She seemed to be all over the place chronologically, which didn’t help. There would be something about her father, then living with the Romanovs and back and forth. Oh, and throw in some after the Romanovs were killed. Too bad – I usually do enjoy reading about the Romanovs.

aug 28, 2020, 11:22 pm

65. Gulp: Adventures of the Alimentary Canal / Mary Roach
3 stars

The title pretty much tells you what this one is. Mary Roach is looking at the alimentary canal, or pretty much the digestive system (apparently it is a portion of the digestive system). She is looking at what goes in one end and comes out the other. And bits of what happens in between.

I listened to the audio. I’m not sure if there was as much humour as usual, or maybe I just missed some of it. I’m rating this one ok, and although the audio was fine, I think my mind did occasionally wander. Not sure if it would have had a higher rating if it hadn’t been the audio or not.

aug 28, 2020, 11:51 pm

66. The 100 Thing Challenge / Dave Bruno
3 stars

The author decided he wanted to try – for one year – to live with 100 “things” or fewer. That is, 100 personal possessions. It’s a way to curb his “American-style consumerism” – the always wanting more, or better, or bigger. He took about a year to plan how he’d do it, and to get down to those 100 items. He came up with rules, and admitted that it may not work the same if others want to try.

It would be harder for me, as he didn’t want to pressure his family (wife and 3 daughters) to do this with him, which meant shared items (one of his rules) didn’t count as “his” personal 100 things. I live alone. The bed, and other of his shared items, might have to be considered my personal things. Again, though, he encourages people who want to try to come up with their own rules around it, or ever a different number.

It was ok. He mused into a lot of philosophy, as well. I guess doing something like that might change how you look at the world.

aug 31, 2020, 10:32 pm

67. Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters / Jane Austen, Ben H. Winters
3.5 stars

This retelling of Jane Austen’s “Sense and Sensibility” adds in some additional... characters, adventure, etc. in the form of sea monsters! The Dashwoods – mother and three sisters – are put out of their house and must move to an island. Their son/brother inherited all the money, and though he initially intended (on a promise to his dying father) on providing his family with some money, his wife convinces him they can’t afford to. Anyway, while on the island, they still manage to visit with a lot of people, and to find men for the eldest two sisters, Elinor and Marianne, to fall in love with (in fact, Marianne has a choice of two men... though one has an odd facial/health issue in the form of tentacles).

It was a bit hard to keep the characters straight, between using first names or sometimes a title with last names (Mr. or Miss). I thought the book did pick up in the 2nd half and especially the last 1/3 with the sea monster and underwater action! I did enjoy those parts of the book, odd as they might have been. There were some good illustrations that were added to the book, as well. It helped me picture some of the odd sea creatures. It also included humourous book club discussion questions, which I quite enjoyed reading, as well.

sep 5, 2020, 4:45 pm

68. Once Every Never / Lesley Livingston
3 stars

Clare is in England with her aunt when, at a museum, she touches an artifact and it transported to another time. Clare’s best friend Al is with her and they figure out that she was transported back to when a woman led her tribe against the invading Romans. Of course, there is a hot warrior to help keep things interesting... and a kidnapping in Clare’s current timeline.

It was ok. For some reason, I just didn’t get into it as much as this type of story might normally grab me; I’m not sure why that is. I guess I didn’t really “connect” with the characters. Not sure what else it might have been. I believe this is the first in a series, but at this point, I don’t plan to continue.

sep 7, 2020, 11:08 pm

69. Mew is for Murder / Clea Simon
3.5 stars

Theda is a reporter and has an idea for a story on cat hoarders after she comes across an older lady in her neighbourhood who seems to have an abundance of cats. She may or may not be a hoarder, but the neighbour sure doesn’t like the woman or her multiple cats. When Theda comes around again, she discovers the woman dead. The police think she just fell, so it was an accident, but Lillian (the old woman)’s young friend and helper (and musician) Violet, doesn’t agree. She insists Lillian must have been murdered.

30-some years old and Theda’s still a bit of a partier, so I wasn’t crazy about that (I thought she acted way younger than her age). Wasn’t as interested in the bar hopping and the music, but loved the cats! So, it was up and down for how interested I was in certain parts of the book, but overall, I liked it enough to look into the next in the series. If it has more focus on animals, I’ll continue; if it’s more focus on music, it’s unlikely. (Another one with a cat title, so I will continue on.)

sep 19, 2020, 5:01 pm

70. The Secret Lives of Saints / Daphne Bramham
4 stars

“Saints” in the title refers to the religion, “Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints” (LDS), or more specifically, fundamentalist LDS (FLDS) – that is, the polygamous branch of the LDS/Mormons. This book includes info from various, mostly former, FLDS – that is, it includes some memoir-type info with regard to some people (again, mostly those who have left), but the second part talks about the law, courts, trials, and even that some governments look the other way (British Columbia in Canada seems the worst for that).

This book does focus more on the Canadian FLDS (and leader/prophet Winston Blackmore) than any other I’ve read, so that was interesting to me. I’m in Calgary, Alberta, and though I knew about Bountiful, BC (actually called Lister, which I didn’t know), I did not know that there is a small population of FLDS in Alberta, as well, mostly in/around Cardston. The FLDS is so intertwined, though, that it started with a history, and there is also much about the communities in Utah and Arizona, and of course, about Warren Jeffs.

I have read quite a bit about the FLDS so many names are already familiar to me in that I’ve read some of those memoirs. I know that a few of the Canadian FLDS had a trial wrap up in BC last year, so I’m going to look that up to refresh my memory on what happened there. This book was published in 2008, so things have happened since then (like the trial in BC). I found the second part of the book – the legal stuff – much more interesting than I expected, and found myself even more interested than in the first half of the book; I guess much of that was exasperation and frustration at all the laws they are breaking... and in some cases, flaunting (in addition to polygamy, there is, of course, all kinds of abuse, plus bilking the government (i.e. taxpayers) out of as much money as possible – they need all that extra income to feed their 15+ wives and 70+ children (ok, that might just be Blackmore with that many, but you get the picture)).

sep 20, 2020, 5:34 pm

71. The Good Son / You-Jeong Jeong
3.5 stars

When 25-year old Yu-jin wakes up one morning, his house is strangely silent. He is used to hearing his mother at certain times every day. Not only that, he thinks he had a seizure the night before and can’t remember how or when he got home. It’s not long before he discovers his mother’s body in a puddle of blood. What happened the night before...?

This was good. It was slow-moving as Yu-jin tried to figure out what had happened. It does make me, a little bit, not to want to walk by myself at night (though not possible for me to always avoid, as I don’t drive).

sep 21, 2020, 11:30 pm

72. The House Girl / Tara Conklin
2.5 stars

In the mid-19th century house slave Josephine is planning to escape. Current day, Lina is a lawyer. Her law firm wants to file a reparations lawsuit, but needs to find a descendant to represent. While Lina looks for such a descendant, she is drawn into Josephine’s story. Josephine is thought to be the real artist behind the art supposedly created by a white woman, the woman Josephine serves.

I may have that summary a bit “off”. I listened to the audio, but I’m not going to fault the narrator for my loss of focus. I have listened to this narrator before and rated those books 4 and 5 stars (for the 5 star book, she as one of a few narrators). So, unfortunately, I did lose focus many times in this book, so I never really cared about the characters and I wasn’t all that interested in the story.

sep 28, 2020, 11:31 pm

73. The Sometimes Daughter / Sherri Wood Emmons
4 stars

Sweet Judy Blue Eyes was born at Woodstock to a high hippie mother, Cassie. Cassie later becomes upset when her husband Kirk “sells out” and goes to school to become a lawyer, so she leaves Kirk and Judy when Judy is only 6-years old to live on a commune. Cassie pops in and out of Judy’s life as the years go on and as Judy grows up.

I really liked this. Have to admit this was a rare book that started stronger than it ended – at least for me. Overall, though, I’m going to keep it at the 4 star rating I was thinking throughout the first half of the book. I was a bit disappointed in some choices Judy made as a teenager. I did love the relationship between Cassie and her dad, though.

sep 30, 2020, 11:12 pm

74. Forever / Maggie Stiefvater
2.5 stars

Possible spoilers for previous books... Maggie is now a wolf; everyone thinks she is missing, but Sam knows otherwise as she is staying with him. Famous musician Cole (who has also been missing, I think) and friend(?) Isabelle also know that Maggie is still alive.. Isabelle’s father(?) is insisting on a wolf hunt to get rid of the wolves once and for all.

I missed a bit too much in the first half to give it a higher rating. As usual, a better recap would have been appreciated... but then, maybe there was one and I missed it? It did pick up for me in the second half, and I paid more attention (I was listening to the audio, so that’s always easier for me to lose focus). It’s unfortunate I never did really figure out where Cole or Isabelle fit in, nor did I like either character very much.

okt 11, 2020, 12:07 am

75. Kitty Cornered / Bob Tarte
3.5 stars

Bob and his Linda have a mini-zoo in their house: ducks, geese, rabbits, various birds and six cats. This book focuses on their cats and how they came to be in Bob and Linda’s lives.

I love how he showed each cats’ personality – they really are all different. There was humour in this book, and I discovered after that he has other books about their other critters – I’ve added one more to my tbr. I wasn’t necessarily impressed with a few things they did (indoor/outdoor cats; (at least) one was declawed; I’m not sure they really understand the best way to introduce cats, as they seemed to be the type that just let them “sort it out”), but maybe he just didn’t go into detail or explain? Really, though, you can see how much he loves his cats and he has some great stories, and some of them do include some of the harder things – the vet visits, peeing outside the box, shy/feral cats.

okt 11, 2020, 4:29 pm

77. The Venetian's Wife / Nick Bantock
3.5 stars

Sara works at a museum and isn’t looking for a new job when she is contacted by email, out of the blue, but someone she doesn’t know. This man is offering her a mysterious well-paid job, and their contact is to only be via email. It turns out he would like her to help him find and acquire 4 original sculptures from the 15th century. Meanwhile, she does miss seeing the man at work she has a crush on.

This is something very different, with illustrations peppered on most (if not all) pages; it was part in diary form and part email. This surprised me. I was a bit doubtful about it and could not remember why I added it to my tbr. I’m not that much into art, and it has an odd subtitle. It was good, though. It moved quickly, so was not very long and did not take long to read.

nov 2, 2020, 9:11 pm

78. This Other Eden / Ben Elton
3 stars

It is sometime in the future and the world is in bad shape with regard to the environment. Plastic Tolstoy is all about marketing. He has created and sells the Claustrosphere. Only the rich can afford them, but that’s where people (those who could afford them) intend to go once the air is no longer breathable and water is no longer drinkable. Well, that’s already happening, but the effects are being staved off as much as possible. There is still an environmental movement, though, that believes that the Earth can be repaired.

There’s a lot more going on than what I’ve described and there are a lot of characters. The book is meant to be humourous, but mostly I found it odd. There were some funny parts. I did like how it ended. But, Ben Elton has better books.

nov 8, 2020, 1:54 am

79. My Secret Sister / Helen Edwards & Jenny Lee Smith
3.75 stars

Helen and Jenny were sisters, but neither knew the other existed until they were well into adulthood. Jenny had been adopted out to a loving couple; she grew up with plenty of advantages and became a professional golfer. Helen was left behind in an abusive home, with a(n) (physically) abusive father and a neglectful mother. She had an older brother, but he managed to get away from the family and the home while Helen was still quite young.

This book tells of both Jenny and Helen’s lives from when they were children up to and a bit after they finally met when in their late 50s. The chapters alternate between them each telling their own stories. Have to admit that Jenny’s life was kind of boring (I’m also not a fan of golf!), but poor Helen. It was her sad story that kept me most interested. They grew up not far from each other, so there were some interesting coincidences when they may have even crossed paths when younger.

I kept waiting for them to find out about being twins (it’s mentioned right on the front cover). It was pretty much the very end of the book when this was “revealed”, so it might have helped with expectations to not have that full front on the cover. I kept waiting and waiting and waiting for them to find out.

nov 8, 2020, 4:29 pm

80. Susannah's Garden / Debbie Macomber
3.75 stars

Susannah’s mother, Vivian seems to be losing her memory about 6 months after Susannah’s father died. Susannah hadn’t been home much as she wasn’t close to her father. But, she needs to go home to try to convince her mother to move to assisted living. Susannah’s 20-year old daughter is finished her first year of college, but hasn’t found a job, so Chrissie decides to come help her mom with packing Vivian’s house. At the same time, Chrissie has other other ideas, as she wants to have fun this summer, so when she meets bad boy Troy...

It wasn’t fast moving, and I would have rated it good, anyway, but I upped the rating by a 1/4 star for a couple of the twists at the end of the book. I did like this. I preferred the storyline between Susannah and her mother over Susannah and Chrissie; Chrissie seemed more like a drama-queen teenager than an adult. Susannah met up with other friends from high school, as well, and I wasn’t a fan of her friend Carolyn’s romance, as it seemed out of place, but it did end up tying in at the end, as well.

nov 15, 2020, 12:21 am

81. Mary: Mrs. A. Lincoln / Janis Cooke Newman
3.75 stars

Mary Todd was Abraham Lincoln’s wife. She grew up in a well-off family, but Abraham was poor. They had four sons, but only one, Robert the oldest, made it to adulthood. Although Mary loved her son with all her heart, Robert never returned that love, nor the affection she so craved.

Ten years after Abraham Lincoln was assassinated, Robert had Mary confined to an insane asylum, though she insisted she was sane and didn’t belong there. This book goes back and forth in time from when Mary is confined to the asylum (and her attempts to have Robert have her released) back to when Mary met Abraham, their courtship, marriage and all the way up to what led Robert to confine her.

I quite liked this. I went back and forth, on thinking Mary didn’t belong in the asylum to wondering if she did. I can’t say I liked her much, but I certainly felt badly for her, as Robert was awful to her. I took 1/4 star off my rating because there is no historical/author’s note at the end. I know nothing about the real Mary – did these things really happen?

nov 18, 2020, 12:16 am

82. How to Cook Without a Book / Pam Anderson
3.5 stars

This book basically gives tips on cooking. The idea is that if you know how to do a few things without needing a recipe, you can change up those things to make it interesting, and you don’t need as much time to cook. The tips are more than the “formulas” for cooking the various things without a recipe; there are other time-saving tips, as well.

It was good. I had the ebook that I looked at on my 2nd generation Kobo (Touch), so the photos, unfortunately, were black and white. I bookmarked some things to make a note of before returning the book to the library (though it says “without a book”, it will take a few tries to make some of the things before I can go from memory).

I don’t like cooking. Some of these things will still take more time than I’d like, and I rarely eat meat, so I kind of skimmed over some of those parts. I did appreciate that for some things, she did make vegetarian/vegan suggestions, as well. In addition to the formulas, the author gave examples. For instance, a formula might say XX amount of starches, XX amount of protein, etc. Then she would also list a bunch of starches or proteins you can use (which is helpful when you don’t cook!).

I don’t tend to just read cookbooks, so I was glad that this book was more than that. Although it says “without a book”, I do feel like this is a useful book to own to go back to for the tips. That being said, I don’t plan to go buy it.

nov 18, 2020, 11:50 pm

83. Stephen King Country / George Beahm
3.5 stars

This book is part-biography of Stephen King and partly looks at the places where King grew up, lived, spent time... and where he modelled some of the settings for his books. It includes photos of many of the places.

I liked it. It was published in 1999, so there is probably a lot more current stuff that could be added if it was updated. The book also looked at some of the movies that were made from King’s books. I particularly enjoyed the section on “The Shining” (Stephen and Tabitha lived in Colorado for a short time). I also love that they are both so supportive of libraries, to the tune of gifting a couple of local libraries a lot of money to help them out.

nov 29, 2020, 5:50 pm

84. Locke & Key: Alpha & Omega / Joe Hill
4 stars

This is the final book in the Locke & Key series, so I don’t want to do too much of a summary so as not to give anything away. I guess I’ll just say that prom is coming up and although Tyler isn’t interested in going, his younger sister, Kinsey is going with her boyfriend. Things will come to a head after the prom.

I thought this was one of the better books in the series. As with the others, there is some gore. The illustrations are done very well.

nov 30, 2020, 5:38 pm

85. The Boat People / Sharon Bala
4 stars

In 2009 or 2010 a boat of refugees arrived in British Columbia. There were over 500 people aboard, coming from Sri Lanka. This really happened, and this book is a fictionalized version of this. The refugees were “detained” (basically, jailed) until they had their initial hearings (just as to whether or not they were allowed into Canada at all; later hearings determine whether or not they can stay.)

Mahindan is a mechanic and has arrived with a young son (5 or 6 years old); unfortunately, his son is not allowed to be detained with his father, so he is initially sent with some of the women detainees and their children, and later placed with a Canadian foster family. Priya is studying to become a lawyer; she wants to be a corporate lawyer, but is assigned to help as counsel for the refugees. Grace has been assigned as an adjudicator for the hearings; she has been informed by a government minister of (I think) public security to be wary and watch for the terrorists who are aboard, because he is certain some of them are.

The story is told from all three viewpoints. Priya has a Sri Lankan background, but does not speak the language. Grace’s background is Japanese and her family has been in Canada for a few generations now (her grandparents and parents were interred in the Japanese concentration camps during WWII. The two women learn more about their families’ backgrounds, as well.

This was really good. I was really frustrated with Grace for – what I felt was – relying too much on Fred’s (the minister’s) rhetoric. I guess I wanted to believe all of their stories. I wasn’t as interested in Mahindan’s background in Sri Lanka – well, some was interesting, but I did lose a bit of focus when talking about his courtship to his son’s mother. Without giving too much away, I really had no idea how it would end, and yet I was still surprised.

dec 7, 2020, 10:32 pm

86. Swimming to Antarctica / Lynne Cox
4 stars

Lynne Cox was a long distance swimmer. In the ocean. When she was a teenager in the 1970s, she swam with a group of other teenagers to cross the Catalina Island Channel in California. They were the first teenagers to do so. It only fuelled her desire for bigger, longer, colder swims. She worked for 10 years (meanwhile doing other swims: English Bay, Cook Strait (between the North and South Islands of New Zealand), the Nile River (ugh!) in Egypt, and many more) to be able to cross the Bering Strait (from Alaska to the Soviet Union – this was during the Cold War, which is why it was so difficult to get permission). Ultimately, after all that, she swam in the Antarctic Ocean in 32 F water for a hour.

This was really good. I’m not much into sports or swimming, but it was so interesting to learn all the planning and different things they have to think about and arrange when they do such swims. And it was even somewhat suspenseful – the cold! She obviously lived through it all to write this memoir, but to read about what was going through her head (and going on with her body) while she swam in water that was in the 40s F (then later, 30s!). So interesting!

dec 13, 2020, 11:18 pm

87. Countdown: Our Last Best Hope for a Future on Earth / Alan Weisman
3.5 stars

This primarily looks at human overpopulation of our planet. How can we survive? What do we need to do and how do we do it? Weisman looks at different countries, communities, cultures... Some are ones that have promoted large families. In some cases, some countries are reaching or have already reached their limit of what their country or area can realistically support – what have they done/are doing to help with this?

This was interesting, certainly a topic that many consider taboo, but really is one of the biggest issues when it comes to the issues with our planet’s environment (the other one being consumerism... which, of course, is amplified with a larger world population). Have to admit, though, it took a long time for me to read; it did help that a good chunk of it at the end was references.

dec 16, 2020, 12:15 am

88. The Tie That Binds / Kent Haruf
4 stars

80-year old Edith is in the hospital with a police guard outside her door. Her “young” neighbour and friend, Sandy, describes her life – as he heard via his father (who was once in love with her) and from as long as he’s known her – leading up to what happened to find her where she is now.

I really liked this. It’s not fast moving, but the beginning sure had me wondering what happened. This is very much like his other books, though. Not a page-turner, but the characters are so well-done that you care about them and want to know what happens.

dec 16, 2020, 12:28 am

89. Jonathan Livingston Seagull / Richard Bach
2.5 stars

Jonathan Livingston Seagull is a seagull. He is not like the other gulls, though. He loves to fly. This makes him an outcast.

This was a bit odd. Lots of philosophical stuff that I’m not that interested in. It was a very fast read, as it’s less than 100 pages, and many of the pages are photographs of seagulls flying.

dec 19, 2020, 11:58 pm

90. The Power of Meow / David Michie
3.5 stars

The header of the title reads: “The Dalai Lama’s Cat and...”. The book is told from the point of view of HHC (His Holiness’ Cat). HHC is able to wander about and listen in on conversations, so as to learn about mindfulness, meditation, and Buddhism herself, and to put it to use.

There is a bit of a storyline amidst the learning about mindfulness etc. The cook at the monastery has had a heart attack, so after she is released from the hospital, she and her adult daughter come to the Dalai Lama to learn about mindfulness. The daughter, Serena, works closeby at a bookstore/cafe, which is often visited by HHC. When a lady comes in to the restaurant and has an allergy attack, she storms out and makes a complaint against the cat. Turns out, she has something to do with Serena.

Anyway, the book was a gift. I’m not that much into meditation and such, but I am a cat person. The author seems to know cats and their mannerisms, so it was entertaining to read HHC’s viewpoint. I was also interested in Serena’s storyline. I’m not sure I’ll read more in the series, although “The Art of Purring” might be enjoyable. I’m considering this one a good read. It was 199 pages, and very fast to read.

dec 20, 2020, 11:13 pm

91. Light on Snow / Anita Shreve
3.5 stars

Nicky is 12-years old. She and her father moved from New York to rural New Hampshire after Nicky lost her mom and sister. While they are showshoeing one day, they come across an abandoned baby left to die in the snow.

The book alternates between the current situation with the found baby and backing up to time to learn about how Nicky and her Dad came to where they are now.

This was good. It started off with a “bang” and I wanted to keep reading. Part-way through, I wasn’t happy with some of the decisions they made – especially Nicky’s father, being the adult. But I did like the way the book ended.

dec 21, 2020, 4:09 pm

92. The Scarlet Plague / Jack London
3 stars

It’s 2070-something. “Granser” is telling his three grandsons about the “Scarlet Plague” that happened in 2012 or 2013. It was a disease that killed (ridiculously fast once it hit – within minutes or hours – no time to get help) a very large proportion of the 8 billion people on Earth at the time. Granser was one of the few who lived through it. Civilization is trying to rebuild itself, but the focus of the story is on the plague and aftermath as Granser saw it.

It’s a short story, so doesn’t take long to read. I was impressed with the guesstimate of 8 billion people on Earth in 2012 – not too far off. I never did figure out why the man cried so easily, though, at taunting from the boys. Overall, it’s an ok story.

dec 28, 2020, 2:41 pm

93. Old Sparky: The Electric Chair and the History of the Death Penalty / Anthony Galvin
4 stars

This book not only looks at the electric chair, but it starts off looking at hanging as a punishment. In the late 19th century, in the US, they were looking to replace hanging as the default punishment for anyone sentenced to death. The author starts by looking at hangings and why they thought it should be replaced. Over all the decades that the electric chair was used (it has only ever been used in the US), it was never upgraded or improved. There was a moratorium on the death penalty in the late 60s until 1976, but even then, there needed to be more rules governing when it would or could be used. Also, in 1976, states were looking at replacing the chair, primarily with lethal injection.

The book points out the issues with all three of these types of capital punishment. They can all be botched, badly, even when trying to find the most “humane” way to administer the death penalty. The book looks at notable cases where the electric chair was used – Ted Bundy being the one name I recognized. They also looked at the youngest child (a 14-year old innocent black boy) to be put to death, and also the youngest girl (16 or 17, I think). The author also has two chapters near the end on innocent people being put to death.

Not exactly Christmas reading, but I found this really interesting. Having always lived in a country that doesn’t have the death penalty, I have waffled. Must admit – it doesn’t make me sad that Ted Bundy was put to death. However, when you hear of innocent people, I’m not convinced. And innocent people being put to death may be a higher number than people want to believe. It’s also more expensive to hold someone on death row (I knew that already). I was horrified to read that – even when there is additional evidence found to prove that someone is innocent, the Supreme Court is ok with that innocent person being put to death! As long as they were convicted in a proper trial, there is no need to release them! It would require a new trial, but that will only happen if the trial was not done properly the first time around. THAT is horrifying.

jan 3, 2021, 9:55 pm

In 2020, I read 93 Rounduits!!!!

That's 52% of everything I read (93/179). I think I usually read about 1/3 of my books that are rountuits!

All the time I've been keeping track, I've only counted books on my tbr for at least 2 years.

However, I decided, for 2021, I am going to only count those books that have been on my tbr for 3+ years.

Redigerat: jan 10, 2021, 5:01 pm

This year, I am planning to count only those books that have been on my tbr for at least 3 years.

jan 3, 2021, 9:56 pm

1. The Lady in Medieval England, 1000-1500 / Peter Coss
2.5 stars

This is a nonfiction history of “ladies” in medieval England. Ladies - not just meaning women - but upper class nobility “ladies”. It covered things like inheritance, heraldry (coats of arms, usually from the father or husband, used in women’s seals), kidnapping (aka “ravishing”!), marriage, romance…

Too academic for my liking. There were some interesting nuggets, but also a lot of big words, long paragraphs, and quotes in Middle English. When I’m bored by a book, I don’t put it down, but I tend to skim. I definitely skimmed (or just skipped) anything in Middle English, and a bit more. Otherwise, bits and pieces caught my attention, but not enough to even say it was “ok” (in my rating system). The interesting bits gave it the .5 stars above not liking it, as a whole.

jan 6, 2021, 7:08 pm

>94 LibraryCin: 👏👏👏👏

jan 6, 2021, 8:58 pm

>97 Sergeirocks: Thank you! I was quite excited!

jan 6, 2021, 9:49 pm

2. Barometer Rising / Hugh MacLennan
3.25 stars

It’s 1917 in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Penny (a woman working at the shipyard – very unusual for the time)’s love (and cousin) has been at war and he’s missing. They all think he’s dead. So, when Angus (much older than Penny) asks her to marry him, she accepts. Only days later, the Halifax Harbour goes up in an explosion.

The book only follows just over one week. It took longer than I liked to get to the explosion. Leading up to it wasn’t nearly as interesting as the explosion itself and the aftermath, but not long after, it concluded mostly with their regular lives again. If there had been more focus on the disaster, I would have enjoyed it more, I’m sure. There was an afterword by another “classic” Canadian author, Alistair Macleod – one of those that analyzes the book; one of the ones that should never be an introduction but often is (because it gives away the story)! Luckily, it was an afterword.

jan 10, 2021, 5:01 pm

3. An Available Man / Hilma Wolitzer
3.5 stars

Edward has recently (within the past 2(?) years) lost his wife, Bee. Bee was his soulmate, though they met and married later in life. Edward is still only 63 (I think). He and his adult stepchildren are close, and those stepchildren decide to move things along by creating and publishing an ad for him on a dating site(?) (or was it a personal ad?). Luckily, they do tell him before he starts to receive replies. He reluctantly tries a few dates.

This was good, although I wasn’t sure I was going to like where it was headed for a while. Luckily, it turned out ok in the end. I also liked Edward’s relationships with his stepkids and his mother-in-law.

jan 14, 2021, 10:54 pm

4. The Tattooed Witch / Susan MacGregor
3.75 stars

Miriam’s father is a doctor. They are in a room with important priests (as a 17-year old woman, she shouldn’t be there) and the young handsome priest is dying. Miriam’s father is trying to help when the Grand Inquisitor comes in, insists the young priest needs his last rites and forces him to drink wine – wine with extra powder in it. The young priest convulses and dies. As Miriam and her father try to leave, the Grand Inquisitor accuses them of murder and locks them up. Miriam has to find a way out and she won’t leave her father behind.

That is pretty much the first chapter. I don’t want to go into too much more, as I don’t want to give anything away, but part-way through we meet another character, Joachin, who lost both parents when he was 9- and 11-years old. Joachin is looking for a priest with a scar – a scar Joachin gave him when that priest murdered Joachin’s mother. Joachin plans to kill the priest with the scar.

When Joachin was introduced, initially I wasn’t as interested in his storyline (nor the storyline of another group of people introduced a bit later), until things (and characters) started to come together. The book really picked up in the last ¼ of the book, and though I didn’t increase my rating up to 4 stars (that’s what I’d rate the last bit of the book), I pulled up my rating just that extra bit above 3.5 stars (good). This is a trilogy, so not everything was tied up at the end, as it will continue, and I will continue with the next book, as well.

jan 24, 2021, 3:14 pm

5. Furiously Happy / Jenny Lawson
4 stars

Blogger Jenny Lawson has a number of mental health issues, including anxiety and depression. In this, her second book, she takes a humourous look at herself and her eccentricities, mostly in the form of anecdotes.

I listened to the audio, which she narrated herself and I thought she was really good. There were lots of times when I laughed out loud. Every so often, she’d mention that because I was listening to the audio, I wouldn’t see the photo that’s in the book to go with her current story, but listeners of the audio do get a bonus chapter at the end. It included cats. Which made me happy. Well, she mentions cats at various points throughout the book, anyway. (But that’s not why I gave it 4 stars! Cats were just an added bonus.)

feb 9, 2021, 10:36 pm

6. The Real James Herriot / James Wight
3.75 stars

“James Herriot” was the pseudonym of a veterinarian, James “Alf” Wight, who became an author after decades of veterinary practice in the countryside of England in the mid-20th century. This biography was written by his son. Instead of, like Herriot’s books, a focus on the animals, this book focuses on Alf and the people in his life – his family, lifelong friends, veterinary partners, and more – starting with his life in the country and his vet practice, then switching to writing books, which he also really seemed to enjoy.

I’ve only read a couple of Herriot’s books, but I’ve really enjoyed them. This biography is very good, as well, and of course, there have to be a few animal stories thrown in – not only of a few of the patients, but also of Alf’s own pets. It’s been a bit too long for me to remember the “characters” in Herriot’s books to compare them to the real life versions of those people, but I still quite liked this book.

feb 15, 2021, 10:33 pm

7. Suffering Succotash: A Picky Eater's Quest... / Stephanie V. W. Lucianovic
4 stars

The author was a picky eater growing up and wanted to look into why people hate the foods they hate. As an adult, she has managed to, not only overcome her food pickiness (for most things), but she has become a foodie. In this book, she describes information from scientists on taste, smell, and how other senses affect how people taste things; she was also able to visit a taste lab. Other chapters talk about moms dealing with their picky eater children, emotions and food, eating out, and relationships, among other things.

I found this quite interesting. I am not nearly as picky as many of the people she described in her book, but I’m not very good about trying new foods, and I have issues with various textures. She did talk about textures at one point, and we agree on one item: bananas! (I also hate bacon, and the smell, but surprising to me, apparently that’s one meat that is supposedly appealing to most people, including some vegetarians. Blech!) I found the science very interesting and I found myself annoyed with some of the people in the relationship chapter! She also included plenty of humour, as well as her own stories, and plenty of 80s and 90s references, which were fun.

feb 26, 2021, 10:34 pm

8. The Shoemaker's Wife / Adriana Trigiani
4 stars

It’s around 1900 in Italy. Ciro and his brother are only about 5 and 6 years old when their mother, who has just lost her husband (the boys’ father) and just can’t cope, drops them off at a convent. She tells them to be good, help out, and she’ll be back in 6 months for them. Well, she doesn’t come back. At 15-years old, Ciro is hired out to dig a grave for a little girl, when he meets, Enza, that little girl’s oldest sister. There is an instant connection. But, something happens soon after and they are kept apart.

Some time later, they both separately arrive in America – New York City, to be exact. Ciro is a shoemaker’s apprentice, while Enza is working as a maid (very ill-treated), and also finds a job as a seamstress at the Metropolitan Opera. We follow their lives as immigrants in the US in the early 20th century.

I really liked this. It didn’t move fast, but I really enjoyed the story, and was rooting for Ciro and Enza. I liked the characters and their relationships. The author’s note at the end tells us that this is based on Trigiani’s grandparents’ lives.

feb 28, 2021, 9:56 pm

9. Death: The High Cost of Living / Neil Gaiman
3.75 stars

Sexton is 16-years old and thinking about killing himself. He is writing a note when his mother interrupts him and asks him to leave so she can do some spring cleaning. While out, Sexton meets Didi… who it turns out is Death personified, though she does “remember” her young teenage life as Didi. She appears to be a teenager like Sexton, so they spend a day and night just “hanging out” doing normal teenage things (while still aiming to do an odd errand – there is a 250 year old woman who has asked Didi to find and retrieve her heart for her).

This is a graphic novel, highlighting the character Death from the “Sandman” series.. I liked it better than the ones I’ve read from the Sandman series. The introduction by Tori Amos was odd. I also though the “afterword” comic on sex and AIDS was odd, but it was published I 1993, so I guess he was trying to get some factual info out there. But I liked the character who is Death, and her kind-of friendship with Sexton. I also loved her “look” – dark and goth.

mar 1, 2021, 9:39 pm

10. The Tao of Martha / Jen Lancaster
3.5 stars

In this memoir of Jen’s, she looks back at 2012, when she made an effort to emulate her idol, Martha Stewart. She wanted to get organized around her house and throw great parties…

The memoir included more than Martha Stewart… it included other happenings that year, such as the loss of her beloved dog Maisie. That was the toughest part of the book, in my opinion, but it certainly hit my heart. The other memorable part, for me was her mammograms. Other bits of it were off and on funny. I’m not a Martha Stewart fan, personally, so that wasn’t a draw for me at all. I listened to the audio, narrated by Jen herself, and she did fine with the narration.

mar 2, 2021, 9:29 pm

11. Daughter of Time / Sarah Woodbury
3.75 stars

Meg has a toddler daughter, Anna, and just recently buried her abusive husband, who she’d been trying to leave. When Meg and Anna are driving one night, an accident spins their vehicle, but when they wake up, Meg thinks someone is playing a prank. They have woken up in the 13th century, and the man taking care of her is the Prince of Wales (when Wales was still its own country). At this time, the Prince, Llywelyn, has made a tentative peace with the Prince (King?) of England, but still has people coming after him, including his own traitorous brother, Dafydd.

I quite enjoyed this time travel/historical fiction/romance. The chapters alternated points of view between Meg and Llywelyn. I did prefer the chapters from Meg’s POV, likely due to a. being a woman, and b. being able to “picture” how one might react shifting in time from present day to the 13th century! I liked the pronunciation guide (for Welsh) at the start of the book. Apparently this is a prequel to a series, but I haven’t (yet) read any of the rest of the series (though I plan to continue now!)

mar 9, 2021, 9:17 pm

12. The Richest Woman in America / Janet Wallach
2 stars

Hetty Green was born in 1834 and, despite being a girl, learned about money and investments from her father (hmm, on reading the blurb, this may not have been where she learned this – at least not directly). She also seemed quite litigious and took offense when inheritances she thought should go to her didn’t. She was a very wealthy woman.

I listened to the audio, and though the narrator didn’t appear to have an accent, she did pronounce some vowels oddly, which distracted me. Combine that with really being kind of boring and I wasn’t impressed. Because of being somewhat boring, I may not have the summary exactly right, as I wasn’t paying attention to parts of the book. And I didn’t particularly like Hetty. In some ways, she was obviously before her time.

mar 10, 2021, 10:18 pm

13. Nightmares & Dreamscapes / Stephen King
3.25 stars

I’ve had this book since university and I can’t remember if I read it back then or not. I decided to (re)read. As with all short story collections, I liked some better than others. There were a few I really liked in the first half and I was debating about rating this higher than other short story collections I’ve read in the past, but some of the stories in the second half brought my rating down a bit.

I think something I’m not crazy about with short stories is the energy it takes to move from one to the other so quickly. I always knew that I often didn’t like how short they were because I’d just be “getting’ into the story, when it would end and move on to the next. It was reading this that it occurred to me it takes “energy” to start with a new story so often – you have to get to know new characters and a new plot.

Some of the stories I really liked included Dolce’s Cadillac, Chattery Teeth, You Know They Got a Hell of a Band (if I hadn’t read this one before, I had definitely heard about it), Rainy Season, Sorry Right Number (this was more of a screenplay, but I quite liked it). His last “story” was more of a diary/journal (nonfiction) about his son’s Little League baseball team and a successful season they had. He included an interesting note at the end with a bit of information behind some of the stories.

mar 14, 2021, 10:49 pm

14. The Dreams of Ada / Robert Mayer
4 stars

In 1984, in the “town” of Ada, Oklahoma, Denice Haraway left her job at a convenience store/gas station with a man (they simply looked like a couple). When the people who saw them leave went inside, the clerk (Denice) was no where to be found. It appeared that the place had also been robbed. It was only later that they realized the woman they saw leaving was the clerk.

When composite sketches brought Tommy Ward and Karl Fontenot to the attention of the police, they were brought in and questioned. When both confessed on camera, that pretty much sealed the deal. It wasn’t long before they recanted – said they thought their confessions (given under pressure) would easily be exposed as lies. But, despite a LOT of inconsistencies in those confessions, the two were arrested and charged.

I didn’t know the outcome of this. I may have when I heard about the book, but by the time of reading it now, I didn’t remember. I don’t want to say too much if anyone wants to read the book to see what happened and not find out things ahead of time. Even behind my spoiler tag, I haven’t specifically said, but I expect one might be able to figure it out, so you are warned!

Wow, I couldn’t believe it! Wow, I’m appalled! And to this day… Ugh! There were parts in the book that were a little more dry – sections that included things written by Tommy (he’s not very literate), and other legal details – but overall, it was interesting, particularly once they had the private investigator on the case. And suspenseful during the trials. This was originally published in 1987, but a new edition (with a new afterword) was published in 2006; the 2006 is the one I read.

mar 21, 2021, 10:35 pm

15. The Hero's Guide to Being an Outlaw /Christopher Healy
3.5 stars

This is the third (and final – sniff!) installment of the “Hero’s Guide” series, which follows the “League of Princes”. The League of Princes consists of four Princes Charming (which is not the real name of any of them!): Duncan, Liam, Frederic, and Gustav. Although the princesses (Snow, Rapunzel, (Cinder)Ella) have been involved in all adventures in the series, in addition, this time around, they (as well as an additional character Val Jeanval, and Lila, Liam’s younger sister) give themselves a name (which Snow shortens to ffff… though I can’t remember what exactly it stands for! But I liked Snow’s shortened version!).

Anyway, in this one, all our heros are “WANTED” for the murder of Briar Rose (aka Sleeping Beauty), though they don’t even realize it initially! There are bounty hunters on their tail, looking for the “untold riches” that are promised to those who bring them back alive.

As usual, this was fun! I listened to the first two on audio, which I think added to the “ambiance”, though I do recall that I did occasionally lose interest, but Bronson Pinchot was the narrator and with all the accents and voices he can do, what fun! With the ebook this time around (the library did not have the audio for this one), I do think I was able to keep more focus, though I did miss those voices and accents! I am sad that the series is finished.

mar 31, 2021, 10:23 pm

16. What's a Dog For? / John Homans
4 stars

In this book, the author looks at various aspects of the history of dogs and dog-human relationships. Some of the topics include evolution, dog behaviour (also compared to other animals), breeds, rescues, etc.

I quite liked this. Despite being an audio book, I was kept interested (though apparently, I don’t have much to mention in my review!).

apr 1, 2021, 11:15 pm

17. Madame Tussaud: A Life in Wax / Kate Berridge
3 stars

Madame Tussaud was taught by her “uncle”(? Not sure if he was really her uncle, or just the man her mother worked for) to form wax models. She also turned out to be a pretty good marketer and businesswoman. She lived through the French Revolution, then took her wax figures with her to England. From there, she travelled through Scotland and Ireland. Meanwhile, her husband and one son (the other son was with her) stayed in France (until the younger son was in his early 20s, at which time he joined his mother and brother). A man she had gone into business with when she went to England and her husband took advantage of her brilliant head for business (and the money that came from it).

Most of what people know of the early part of Marie Grosholtz’s (Madame Tussaud’s) life came from her own autobiography. This author tries to verify (but has a hard time doing so) much of what Marie wrote about her own life. It seems that there may have been a lot of exaggeration, particularly during the French Revolution, when she created wax figures out of decapitated heads during the “Terror”. It was easier to verify her life (as she became more well-known) once she moved to England.

The book was ok, but a few too many parts of it were kind of dry reading. All I knew about her was from Michelle Moran’s book, but her book pretty much ended when Marie moved to England. I hadn’t realized she had done as much travelling as she had – to promote her show and her wax models. She really does seem to have had a good head for business, but much of her money was taken by a bad deal with the man she went into business with in England (until she untangled herself from him) and her dud of a husband in France.

apr 3, 2021, 10:01 pm

18. All My Patients Kick and Bite / Jeff Wells
3.5 stars

This is a set of stories/essays, in the vein of James Herriott, about a vet and his interesting cases. Dr. Wells also includes some personal information in some of the stories, as well. Dr. Wells is in Colorado.

I enjoyed this. I’m not sure if there are more in his series of stories, but if there is, I will continue reading them.

apr 5, 2021, 2:07 pm

19. The Devil's Making / Sean Haldane
3 stars

Chad Hobbes went to law school in England, but never wrote the bar exam. In 1868, he has come to British Columbia, a British colony, but not yet part of Canada (which was just recently formed in the east), but without having written the bar, he cannot practice as a lawyer, so he gets a job as a constable in Victoria. When an American “alienist” (psychiatrist - I had to look it up!) is found murdered in a very gruesome way, everyone assumes it’s the First Nations people who are closeby who killed him. One is arrested and it is assumed he will soon hang for it. Hobbes, though, doesn’t think he (nor any of the other natives) did it, and he sets out to find who really did it. In the meantime, Hobbes finds himself attracted to the sister of the man who was arrested.

Be warned: this was quite gruesome in the details. Also, there was a lot of investigation into sexual things. There is definite racism here, primarily against native people. Overall, I’m rating this ok. There were parts that just didn’t interest me, so I kind of tuned out, but other parts were fine and I followed without an issue. I’m thinking maybe the writing style? The odd thing is that I love historical fiction, I also like mysteries (though some types more than others), but oddly, more often than not, historical mysteries don’t interest me as much. I have no idea why.

I did like the Canadian background in this, though. I’ve been to Victoria a couple of times, so I could picture some of the places mentioned. There was an odd (I thought) twist and I felt like the end was a bit too much all tied up – except for one thing. That one thing wasn’t a happy one (and it was apparently a real event). The brief afterword also explained that many of the people were real people.

apr 10, 2021, 5:20 pm

20. I Do Not Come to You By Chance / Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani.
3 stars

In Nigeria, Kingsley’s father is very sick, and to pay for his hospital bills, Kingsley must go to his rich uncle for money to pay for his father’s care. Uncle Boniface (more well-known in the community as Cash Daddy) shamefully (to the rest of the family) gets his money from 419 email scams. Kingsley has an engineering degree but is unable to find a job. This eventually forces him to work for his uncle.

This was ok. I’m not sure there were many characters I particularly liked, and it was a bit slow in the first half. The end also confused me a bit, as I’m not exactly sure what happened there. I had briefly considered upping my rating a bit until the end.

maj 5, 2021, 10:31 pm

21. Vanishing and Other Stories / Deborah Willis
2.75 stars

A book of short stories… I’ve said it before – I’m not usually a fan of short stories, and I wasn’t here, either. There was one that I liked; there were a few more that were ok – I wouldn’t say I liked them, but at least they held my attention; the others, I just wasn’t interested in and didn’t even manage to follow.

I hate writing a bad review about a book by a Canadian author, but I’ve actually also met this author a couple of times (and my book is a signed copy). I did like that some of the stories were set, not only in Canada, but in my city (Calgary – where the author lives, or did the last I knew), and in another city I’ve visited a couple of times (Victoria), so it’s always nice to recognize the places mentioned/described.

maj 22, 2021, 11:39 pm

22. Hallucinations / Oliver Sacks
3.25 stars

Oliver Sacks is a neuroscientist, and this book includes essays on the topic of hallucinations. There were chapters on blindness, Parkinsons, epilepsy, drugs, migraines, narcolepsy, and a lot more, as well as a couple of chapters on auditory and smell hallucinations.

It was mostly interesting, but some parts did lose my interest. His books are like that for me (well, the few that I’ve read).

maj 31, 2021, 11:07 pm

23. Herbert has Lots for a Buck / Elizabeth McLachlan
4 stars

This book looks at twelve small towns on the Canadian Prairies, four towns in each of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta. These are towns that have reinvented themselves to come back from dying out completely. One chapter for each town tells us the history of the town and what they’ve done to keep the town alive.

I grew up in a small town in Saskatchewan, so I found this really interesting. It might have helped that I know some of the towns (and I know about Rosebud, AB and Vulcan, AB and their “claims to fame,” so to speak); however, I really do think the stories of these towns could be interesting to anyone. The author really does write the stories of the towns very well. The book reminded me a bit of CBC’s “Still Standing”, except the book includes more town history, in addition to the current situations in the towns.

Favourites of mine were Craik, SK (now an eco-village) and Neubergthal, MB (done up as a historical Mennonite village). My Dad’s background is Mennonite, so that might also have helped with the interest there. Other towns (you can guess what Vulcan is famous for): Rosebud is for the dinner theatre in town; Warner, AB for a world-class women’s hockey program; Elbow, SK for their marina, Beacham, SK for the artists in town; Inglis, MB for their “elevator row” (historical grain elevators). The title really drew me to the book, as I have family in Herbert, SK. The author did not include Herbert as one of the essays, but she mentioned a bit about it (and the title) in the epilogue.

jun 1, 2021, 9:52 pm

24. Naked and Marooned / Ed Stafford
3 stars

The author decided he wanted to maroon himself on an uninhabited island in the South Pacific (I believe in Fiji) for 60 days with nothing, including no clothes! Now, because he got a tv deal, he did have to take a camera and microphone, and there were daily “checks” (via note), if needed; also the drop place for the notes was also meant to replenish batteries. The notes were not to include anything to motivate.

This was interesting. I listened to the audio, though, so as is often the case, I did lose interest at times. I had a real hard time listening to how he hunted and killed, though. (Even the tv show did not air one of his (more brutal) kills.) The book not only looked at how he survived, but also he reflected on his mental state being so isolated.

jun 12, 2021, 4:04 pm

25. Mrs. Mike / Benedict and Nancy Freedman
3 stars

In the early 1900s, Katherine (Kathy) is sent to Calgary, Alberta to live with her uncle due to her health, where she meets RCMP Mike. Although Kathy is only 16, they get married and move further north – where there aren’t many white women, and life is much more primitive than Kathy is used to.

Apparently this is based on a real person – I only found that out by looking at a few other reviews. I listened to the audio, which wavered in and out on holding my attention (or not). It was ok. Some parts I liked, but overall, ok. Had a hard time with a couple of parts about injured animals. I’m not sure I particularly liked any of the characters. Except for one secondary character (due to the unusual name), I tended to get those secondary characters mixed up. One of the good things, though, were descriptions of hardships encountered: loss, fire...

jun 17, 2021, 10:26 pm

26. Roots / Alex Haley
3.5 stars

In the mid-18th century, Kunta Kinte grew up in “The” Gambia, Africa. When he is about 17 “rains”, he is kidnapped and taken on a boat across the “big water” and finds himself in a strange new world; he doesn’t even understand the language. He tries to escape multiple times, but the 4th time, he is caught and punished severely. The book follows not only the rest of his life, but the lives of some of his descendants. Next up, his daughter, Kizzy; one of her sons, who later becomes known as “Chicken George”, as he raises and fights roosters; George’s son Tom becomes a blacksmith…

It’s starts of as fiction, but the last few chapters chronicle Alex Haley’s genealogical research and findings. I know there was controversy, but Haley even says himself that the people are real and as many situations as he could find in his research as possible are real; obviously specific conversations, etc. are fictionalized. I’ve added tags for historical fiction and biographical fiction, but also memoir for the last chapters. This had nothing to do with my rating, though.

3.5 stars for me is good. I liked it. It’s also very long. I don’t often rate really long books much higher than 3.5 stars. I think that it’s hard to sustain “really good” in a book over 800+ pages! (And keep in mind, I’m generally a tough rater, anyway.) I admire that this was a groundbreaking book at the time it was published, and it reached a wider audience with the tv mini-series. I only watched the movie as an adult (I was a kid when it would have originally aired on tv). There was a longer section in Africa than I’d expected. I wasn’t crazy about the cockfighting (though, obviously it happened – and sadly, still does). Overall, though, good book. I’m glad I finally read it.

jun 22, 2021, 11:00 pm

27. I Hunt Killers / Barry Lyga
4 stars

Jasper (aka Jazz) Dent’s father, Billy, is a serial killer (with over 100 murders to his name). His mother disappeared a while ago, and his father is now in jail. Jazz lives with his senile grandmother (Billy’s mother). Although it’s more Jazz taking care of her than the other way around. Jazz is in high school and is afraid, due to how he was raised, that he will turn out like Billy. When there is one murder in town, Jazz is convinced it’s a serial killer, but the police won’t listen because it’s only one and there has to be at least three before they are considered serial. But Jazz not only knows, he is able to predict the next murder… That’s when the police start listening to what Jazz has to say.

I listened to the audio and this was good. Quite a different perspective on a serial killer novel. In addition to the murder mystery aspect of the book, Jazz was dealing with doubts about himself, and not knowing/worrying if/that he might turn out like his dad. I did find it a bit unbelievable that the cop would go to Jazz with details of the murders, but I guess he was hoping Jazz could help. Overall, though, I really liked this; it is a series and I will continue.

jun 23, 2021, 11:24 pm

28. The Other Side of the Night: The Carpathia, the Californian and the Night the Titanic Was Lost / Daniel Allen Butler
4.25 stars

This is a book about the sinking of the Titanic, but more from the points of view of two of the closest ships that night. In fact, one of them – the Californian – was within sight distance and saw the distress rockets go up… and the captain, Stanley Lord, didn’t do anything. He was a very authoritarian captain and his subordinates didn’t feel that they could go against him. Further away (unfortunately a full 4 hours or so), was another ship – the Carpathia – whose captain, Arthur Rostron, immediately set sail as fast as the Carpathia had ever gone in her life to get to the Titanic as soon as possible. It was the Carpathia who plucked as many survivors as she could out of the lifeboats to safety.

This was really good. I’m sure I must have read snippets about these other ships in the other Titanic books I’ve read, but I don’t recall details from those books, though I knew the names of the ships. This was very detailed from those points of view. Leading up to the disaster, this also looked at brief biographies of the captains and a bit of history of the ship/cruise and wireless industries. There was also a close look at the inquiries afterward, both in the US and in Britain to get to the bottom of what happened that night

jun 27, 2021, 10:47 pm

29. The Women of the Cousins' War: The Duchess, The Queen, and the King's Mother / Philippa Gregory, David Baldwin, Michael K. Jones
3 stars

This is a biography of three women during the time of the Wars of the Roses (once called “The Cousins’ War”): Elizabeth Woodville (Edward IV’s wife, and the mother of the two “princes in the tower”), Jacquetta “Rivers”(?) (Elizabeth’s mother), and Margaret Beaufort (Henry VII’s mother). Each author writes about one of the women, plus Philippa Gregory writes an introduction on women and history – why you won’t find as much information about women in history and more.

As mentioned in the (quite interesting, I thought) introduction, it’s hard to find information about historical women. Because of that, it’s hard to write an interesting biography, I think. Jacquetta seemed to have the least amount of information to work with. For all three (but especially Jacquetta), there was more about the war and what the men were doing and the big events than about the women themselves, and I’m not as interested in the wars, the fighting, and the politics. So, I tended to skim over those parts, unfortunately, and that’s why I kept my rating to 3 stars, ok.

I did learn a bit, though. Although I’ve read a little bit about the Wars of the Roses, I couldn’t have told you who Jacquetta was. I also get Margaret Beaufort mixed up with Margaret of Anjou (and I’m still not entirely certain who Margaret of Anjou is, although she was around at the same time and was mentioned in this book).

jun 27, 2021, 11:03 pm

30. The Silver Linings Playbook / Matthew Quick
3.5 stars

30-year old (he thinks) Pat has just come home with his mom from the “bad place” – the mental institution – where he has been for a while. He doesn’t (initially) realize it’s been actually been years. Pat is convinced he and his wife Nikki will come together after their “apart time” because he trying really hard to better himself, with exercise and choosing to be kind (instead of being right). He, his father, and his brother are all huge football fans of the Eagles. Pat and his brother bond fairly quickly, with the help of the Eagles games, but Pat’s father is having a harder time connecting with Pat. Pat’s best friend Ronnie introduces Pat to Ronnie’s sister-in-law, Tiffany, but Tiffany is just odd. And Pat still loves Nikki and plans to reconcile with her as soon as possible.

I liked this! There way maybe more football than I liked, but still, overall I liked it. I really liked Pat’s therapist. I did see the movie I-don’t-know-how-many-years-ago and remember liking it, too, but I remembered very little about it. I believe it is why I decided to read the book, though. It is a very quick read.

jul 4, 2021, 5:09 pm

31. Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands / Chris Bohjalian
3.75 stars

Emily (grade 11) was at school when it happened. There was just a couple more days until the end of the school year. Both her parents worked at the nuclear plant in town. The kids at school only knew that sirens were going when they were loaded on to buses and taken away. Emily kept overhearing things about her parents, about how her drunk father had caused this. She needed to disappear. She didn’t want anyone to know she was their daughter, since they were being blamed for the meltdown.

Emily, who since changed her name to Abby, is telling the story in hindsight, and going back and forth in time, and she does jump around, as it’s kind of a conversational tone. There is one dividing line that makes it easier to tell when in time you are as you read: B.C. and A.C. (Before Cameron and After Cameron). Cameron is a young runaway boy that she takes under her wing, as they are both homeless on the streets of Burlington, Vermont.

The book is rough as it shows the life of a homeless teenage girl. I did cry a few times, usually in reference to Maggie, the dog Emily had left behind in the radioactive zone (not that she had a choice). I had to laugh at the “connection” between Emily Dickinson’s poems and the “Gilligan’s Island” theme (and then I sang the poems as they came up in the book)! I quite liked this and it got just a bit more interesting toward the end, but I’m not sure I liked it as much as others I’ve read by Bohjalian.

jul 4, 2021, 5:10 pm

And I missed posting one a while ago:

32. Shadow on the Crown / Patricia Bracewell. 3 stars

jul 7, 2021, 10:40 pm

33. Honolulu / Alan Brennert
4 stars

Named “Regret” by her parents, this little Korean girl so wanted an education but it was forbidden. As a teenager, though, she managed to get permission to travel to Hawaii as a “picture bride”. Immediately upon arrival, along with four other Korean girls she met on the ship, and now self-named Jin (meaning “Gem”), they married their new husbands before being allowed entry into their new country. Jin’s hope had been that her husband would be able to get her an education in Hawaii, but she was sorely disappointed (to put it mildly), not only with this, but with many other things, as well.

I really enjoyed this. I not only learned about the life of a picture bride, I learned about Hawaii in the early 20th century, and about Korea and the interactions with Japan that I really knew nothing about. I was impressed with how many real-life people Brennert brought into the story.

jul 11, 2021, 6:20 pm

34. Strange Bedpersons / Jennifer Crusie
3 stars

Tess and Nick broke up a while back. When Nick shows up at Tess’s door, he needs a favour. In order for a big promotion at his work (he’s a lawyer and his work (and money) has always been his priority), he needs someone to pose as his fiancee for a weekend event and he’s hoping Tess will help him out. They never had much in common beyond a wild attraction, and although Tess hesitates, she agrees. Not only that, she convinces her best friend to accompany Nick’s friend/fellow lawyer (Park) to the same weekend gathering, although she really can’t stand Park.

This was ok. Romance is not usually my “thing”, but sometimes the chick lit has enough other in it that it can be fun and light and enjoyable to me. There were attempts at humour that didn’t really make me laugh in this one, and I’m not sure I really liked any of the characters. There was a secondary plotline that was kind of interesting with a bit of a twist in it, which I liked. This was short and will be forgotten fairly soon, I’m sure.

jul 20, 2021, 11:54 pm

35. The 9th Judgment / James Patterson
3 stars

There is someone out there killing mothers and their babies. Also, there is a thief robbing people; after a high profile robbery (an actor), the actor’s wife is murdered and it appears that the robber is also the murderer.

I listened to the audio and overall, this was ok. It seemed like every time there was a focus on the women’s personal lives, it was all about sex. Ugh! Did they even meet up beyond the one time at the end of the book? I’m at a point where it may not be worth it to continue on. The audio had my attention sometimes.

jul 30, 2021, 5:23 pm

36. The Marrow Thieves / Cherie Dimaline
3.5 stars

It’s sometime in the future, and Indigenous people are being hunted by non-Indigenous for their bone marrow, as there is something in it that helps people dream, and Indigenous are the only ones who are now able to dream. Frenchie, a 16-year old(?) Metis boy, has lost both his parents and his older brother, so he’s on his own until he comes across a group of Indigenous people travelling north.

This was good. I had a bit of trouble getting into it at the very start, but it only took a couple of chapters. I didn’t like one of the decisions Frenchie made near the end of the book, but that ended up working out better than I’d expected. I also thought the very end was unrealistic, but it was good up to that point. It’s a pretty fast read.

aug 14, 2021, 6:16 pm

37. The Horseman's Graves / Jacqueline Baker
2.5 stars

This is set near the Sand Hills in Saskatchewan near the Alberta border. It starts in 1909, but quickly moves on to the next generation. I wouldn’t have known it from the story, but the majority of the farmers living nearby are German immigrants, (I think) via Russia.

All these things should have been more interesting to me with a German (via Russia) family background, and I grew up in Southern Sask and have been to the Sand Hills.

I feel like 2.5 might even be a bit generous. There was one storyline that was (somewhat) interesting, but mostly this was boring. I wasn’t all that interested, and I was confused by who some of the characters were and how they related to the story. Well, they were all in the same town/area, but otherwise… Drove me nuts the one character was simply called “the boy”. Seriously? He doesn’t have a name? Come on!

aug 18, 2021, 9:35 pm

38. The Meat Racket: The Secret Takeover of America's Food Business / Christopher Leonard
5 stars

This book looks at the meat industry, with more of a focus on the chicken industry: the way factory farming built up, the history of it. It started with the chicken industry first via Tyson Foods in 1929 with Jim Tyson. His son, Don, later took over and continued to grow the business, eating up all the different steps in the process, in addition to most of the smaller competitors. They control every step of the chicken business and have incredible power over the farmers, who are often driven to bankruptcy. But the banks continue to fund more farmers to take the places of the bankrupt farmers, because the banks get their money back on those defaulted loans from a federal program (that was not originally meant for this purpose!).

While reading the book, it hadn’t occurred to me to rate it as high as I am, but I feel like my reaction to the book warrants it. The anger, the swearing at the book, the emotions the book brought out it me, I think, warrants the 5 stars. It did make me angry and frustrated that things are going this way, and there doesn’t seem to be a way to stop it… unless the government gets some teeth and stops bowing to the corporate lobbyists for the good of the regular people, the good of the farmers. Well worth the read for anyone who wants to know (and even those who don’t!) what is going on with our modern-day food (or, at least meat) industry.

aug 18, 2021, 9:55 pm

39. Fairest. Vol. 1: Wide Awake / Bill Willingham
3 stars

This is a spinoff of Wilingham’s “Fables” series. It focuses on Briar Rose (Sleeping Beauty) and Ali Baba. Ali Baba finds himself a bottle and when an imp comes out of it instead of a genie, he is sorely disappointed. However, the imp explains that Ali Baba needs to find the sleeping princess and wake her with “True Love’s Kiss”. When he finds her, though, there are two sleeping women – and he doesn’t know whom to wake, so he wakes them both – Briar Rose and the Snow Queen, who then chases after them to capture them.

This was ok. Maybe I would have liked it more if I’d read it closer to when I was still reading “Fables” and at the point where this one made more sense? As always, the colour illustrations were very nice, but the story left something to be desired. I will not be continuing this spinoff series.

aug 20, 2021, 9:58 pm

40. The Romanov Empress / C.W. Gortner
3.5 stars

This is the story of Maria Feodorovna (aka Minnie), the mother of Nicholas, the last Tsar of Russia. She was a princess in Denmark before she moved to Russia to marry Alexander III, (later) Tsar of Russia. Minnie comes to love her adopted country Russia, has many children, marries them off, and tries to advise her children, even as they become adults. Nicholas, however, in marrying a woman Minnie never wanted him to marry, Alexandra, is more influenced by Alexandra (who, in turn, eventually is influenced by Rasputin, much to Minnie’s aggravation).

Once again, I listened to the audio, and once again, it took me some time to get “into” it. It actually took me a while to figure out exactly who Minnie was! It was also a bit trickier because I don’t know most of the people (though I know more about Nicholas and his family) in this story. I have to admit, once I figured out who some of the people were, it got more interesting, though there were always people throughout the book whom I couldn’t place. In most cases (likely all), I either missed it when the person was introduced, or I simply forgot. It didn’t help that many people had the same name and/or there were very similar nicknames for some (Alecki vs Aleksi (mother? son?– sp? I listened to the audio, so not sure of the spelling… add to that, Alix, who was Minnie’s sister!).

Certainly, it got more interesting with the conflict between Minnie and Niki’s wife. Alexandra when Alexandra was fawning over Rasputin. (But even before Rasputin, they really didn’t get along.) I do think there was a lot of historical detail to the book; it seemed it was well-researched.

aug 23, 2021, 11:18 pm

41. The Donnelly Album / Ray Fazakas
3.5 stars

The Donnelly family was an Irish family who immigrated to Canada in the mid-1800s. They set up in the township of Biddulph, Ontario. They were rough – they got into fights, they drank, they vandalized neighbours’ barns (including arson), sabotaged competing business… The father, James, was even convicted of murder and spent time in jail. But the entire area was rough and others did these things, too. James and Johanna had seven sons and one daughter. After decades of the violence, locals got tired of it and took things into their own hands. In the end, four of the family were murdered and burned in one house, and one of the sons murdered in another.

I’ve read a couple other books on the Donnellys, so the entire story was not new to me, but I think this book had a lot more detail and more episodes of things happening. There was a LOT of detail. In addition, there were photos – of the people, the places, letters and other primary documents that the author used in his research. There was a LOT of research that went into this, but it was also a bit dry to read at times. I wanted to give it 4 stars for the extensive research, but I’ve kept my rating just under that. 3.5 stars is still good for me.

sep 8, 2021, 12:03 am

42, Such a Pretty Face / Cathy Lamb
4 stars

Stevie’s mother was mentally ill and did a bad thing when Stevie was still a child (that I don’t want to give away in my review, even though we found out at the beginning what happened there). Stevie’s grandparents had done their best to take care of Helen (their daughter; Stevie’s mother) and protect her, while also taking care of Stevie and her sister, Sunshine. As an adult, the events of the book take place some months after Stevie had bariatric surgery; she has since lost 170 lbs.

She is trying to figure out who the new skinnier Stevie is, as she tries to deal with the lawyers where she works and the case she hates helping defend; her best friend who is still very overweight seems to have changed toward Stevie; the neighbour down the street, Jake (who only moved in just after Stevie’s surgery), is just way too good-looking and Stevie is completely tongue-tied around him, so she tries to avoid him altogether; and Stevie is trying to help her cousins plan her horrible uncle’s 40th wedding anniversary…

There is a lot going on in this book, and a lot of characters, but I really liked it. There is also a huge mix of very “weighty” (pun not intended initially, but when I realized it was punny, I decided to leave it!) issues in book: mental illness, obesity, abuse, and so much more, but mixed in with the occasional bit of humour. I found myself being horrified by Helen, Stevie’s uncle, her “friend”, and the lawyer defending that case, but then the author would turn around and put Stevie in some ridiculous situation (usually trying to avoid Jake!), and I’d be laughing. I thought she did that very well. II think a bunch of very quirky characters made it “easy” to throw in the humour. At the same time, the author did a good job of showing the struggle that Helen went through with her schizophrenia.

I was surprised at the lower ratings, but on reading the reviews, I can see why they rated it what they did, but it wasn’t enough to bring my rating or enjoyment of the book down (although some of the quirky characters were a bit too quirky for me!). I think all the emotions were in this book (there was also a lot of love).

sep 8, 2021, 12:22 am

43. Where She Went / Gayle Forman
3 stars

Three years ago, Adam and Mia split. Mia had lost her family and had barely survived herself. She was about to head to Julliard to study the cello. Adam, meanwhile, became a famous rock star. This is told from Adam’s point of view as he and Mia meet up again in New York after one of Mia’s concerts.

I listened to the audio and I had no issues with it. But overall, I thought the story was ok. It’s been a long time since I read the first book, but I did think the author did a nice job with the recap. It seemed to fill me in on everything I needed to know that I had forgotten. I guess music stories are not necessarily all that appealing for me, nor are rock star celebrity stories. Of course, this is a YA book, so I can see where both of those things are maybe more appealing for younger people.

sep 19, 2021, 2:44 pm

44. The Last Runaway / Tracy Chevalier
3.75 stars

In the mid-1800s, Honor, a Quaker, is accompanying her sister Grace across the ocean from England to Ohio, where Grace is to marry Adam, someone they grew up with who had moved to Ohio to help out his brother in his business. Unfortunately, Grace dies along the way. Honor is so seasick on the crossing, she can’t imagine getting back on a ship to cross the ocean again to head home. But it’s a bit odd for her to live with her widowed almost-brother-in-law, and his newly widowed sister-in-law. They manage for a while.

On her way to Ohio, Honor met up with a local slave hunter. Before reaching Adam, Honor stayed a few days in a nearby town, helping Belle in her hat shop, as Honor is an amazing quilter and seamstress. Once she arrives to stay with Adam, though, she finds herself quite out of place, despite being part of a community of Quakers.

This book had a lot going on… that is, the author had to do a lot of research on a lot of different things, including Quakers, quilting, Ohio, and the Underground Railroad. I quite liked it, but I never did figure out the odd attraction she had for one character. I did love Belle! I’m not a quilter or sewer, so I found the Underground Railroad and the Quakers more interesting. It’s odd that I’ve not read much about Quakers before, but both my audio book and this one, being read at the same time included Quakers who are immigrants to the US (though the audio was set in the 17th century and this one in the 19th).

sep 22, 2021, 11:12 pm

45. A Knight in Shining Armor / Jude Deveraux.
4 stars

Dougless is on a trip to England with her partner, Robert, and his spoilt-brat daughter, Gloria. When, after a fight, Robert and Gloria drive away and leave Dougless behind at a church without even her purse, she breaks down in tears on top of a tomb – the tomb of 16th century “rake” Nicholas Stafford. When a man appears, she refuses to believe he is from the 16th century – he says he IS Nicholas. She just thinks he’s crazy! Even still, she agrees to help him, as he is obviously confused about everything going on around him (or he’s acting so, anyway). They decide to do some research to find out more about what happened to him (he appeared to Dougless only 3 days before he was scheduled to be executed) – that is, who accused him of the crime he is to be executed for.

I quite enjoyed this. I’m not a big romance fan, but I do like time travel. This one got even better with an unexpected turn of events in the middle of the book. Although, I did find Dougless to be a bit – I can’t think of a good word, but “flakey” maybe? I have no idea what she ever saw in Robert! I do feel like this was a tough one to find a good ending for, but I thought she did a good job with that. There is an afterword in the edition I read, which was apparently slightly rewritten from the original. The author said she tried to make the reader see a bit better why Dougless might have wanted so badly to marry Robert, but I still didn’t get that part of it. Despite that, however, I did love the time travel aspect of the book!

okt 13, 2021, 10:31 pm

46. Leaving Lucy Pear / Anna Solomon
3 stars

In 1917, Bea leaves her newborn baby under a pear tree where she knows a family will find the baby. She assumes they will take her in and raise her, and they do. Ten years later, Lucy’s “adopted” mother Emma starts working for Bea, as a nurse to Bea’s uncle.

This was pretty slow. And vague at times as to what exactly was going on. I don’t think I particularly liked any of the characters – oh, I suppose I kind of liked Uncle Ira. I really didn’t care much about the characters, either, maybe because I didn’t like them very much? Initially, I thought I was enjoying the book, but I’m leaning more toward it being ok.

okt 22, 2021, 11:21 pm

47. Lilac Girls / Martha Hall Kelly
3.75 stars

This follows three women during the time of WWII. Kasia was a young girl/woman in Poland who ended up in Ravensbruck, a concentration camp for women where experiments were done on some of those women. Herta was a woman doctor who initially had trouble finding work, but took a job at Ravensbruck, initially not realizing what she was getting into. Caroline was a wealthy woman in the US involved somehow with orphaned children in France, and later with helping women who had survived Ravensbruck.

It took a while for me to get “into” the book. I was listening to the audio, so that may have contributed, but I did like both Kasia’s and Herta’s stories. All the stories skipped forward in time fairly quickly, and I would have liked for it not to skip so much time so fast, as I felt like things got missed.

I could have done without Caroline’s story altogether, and definitely without Paul (her married-to-someone-else French lover). He was creepy (though this may, in part, have been due to the woman’s voice narrating a man’s voice with a French accent – I’ve thought this before with a woman narrating a man’s voice with a French accent). In any case, I did not like Paul at all and found he and Caroline extremely boring. All her pining (and later his) just made me roll my eyes. Ugh! The only time Caroline’s POV was interesting to me was later in the book when she was more involved with Kasia’s story.

I also had never heard the term “rabbits” before when referring to women who had been experimented on. I looked it up part-way into the book (if it was addressed in the book, I missed it), and there is a reason that it referred only to these particular women and experiments. It is also addressed in the author’s note at the end.

Author’s note at the end: Herta and Caroline were real people (though Paul was made up). Kasia and her sister were also fictional but based on real sisters who had been imprisoned at Ravensbruck and who had been experimented on.

okt 22, 2021, 11:53 pm

48. The Last Days of the Romanovs: Tragedy at Ekaterinburg / Helen Rappaport
3.25 stars

This book really does focus on the last two weeks of the lives of Tsar Nicholas II and his wife and children (4 daughters and 1 son) as they were imprisoned and later murdered. It does back up in time, though, to detail how they got where they were.

There was a lot more politics in the book than I’d expected, so that was not as interesting to me as the parts that did focus on the family itself. I will say, though, that this seemed really well researched, with a lot of primary sources being used, most notably (I think) writings by the last head guard of the Romanovs in Ekaterinburg (Yakov Yurovsky), who was also one of the main murderers. This book may have included the most detailed description of the murders themselves, likely due to the writings of Yurovsky.

okt 24, 2021, 3:22 pm

49. When Men Become Gods / Stephen Singular
4 stars

This is a history of of the Fundamentalist Latter-Day Saints (FLDS) – that is, the polygamous Mormons. It does give an entire history, but focuses on more recent events since Warren Jeffs took over as Prophet. Many women have left the FLDS in the past couple of decades due to all kinds of abuse; as well, many boys have been kicked out. The book was published in 2008, so it ends after Jeffs’ trial for accessory to rape (? something along those lines), with the main witness being Elissa Wall (who wrote “Stolen Innocence” about her life as part of the FLDS). She was the first person to bring charges against Jeffs.

I have read a lot about the FLDS already, so I’ve heard a lot of this. This one, though, gave me more insight into the behind-the-scenes investigating of Jeffs and investigating the issues with abuse (and money) within the community. As usual, when I end one of these books, I need to look up what is happening with Jeffs at the moment – he is still in jail, but he still has followers.

okt 27, 2021, 10:52 pm

50. The Lost Dogs: Michael Vick's Dogs and Their Tale of Rescue and Redemption / Jim Gorant
5 stars

This is (primarily) a look at the rescue and rehabilitation of Michael Vick’s fighting dogs.

It starts off heartbreaking as we get the background of the dogs as they were kept in Vick’s yard. And there is some discussion of the trial, etc, but moreso it follows the investigation into what happened and all the behind-the-scenes stuff as they gathered evidence against Vick and the other men who bred and fought these dogs.

But the bulk of the story follows (some of) the dogs after they are rescued. These dogs, unlike other fighting dogs before them, were not immediately euthanized, There were rescues that came to help with foster homes and sanctuaries to see if they could be rehabilitated and the vast majority of them were. Many found forever homes and some (as of the publishing of the book in 2010) were living in sanctuaries where volunteers continued to work with them. It was hard to read about one of the shelters that took some of them in right away – it’s a rough shelter with not much in the way of amenities.

There are sad parts thrown in as if it’s from one dog’s point of view, as well. Some of the work with the scared dogs reminded me of my volunteering with shy/scared cats, to be honest. The end of the book did a “where are they now?” for both the dogs and the people involved. Of course, “now” was around the time of publication over a decade ago. I realized that none of the dogs are probably living now.

okt 31, 2021, 12:04 am

51. Shine / Lauren Myracle
4 stars

When 16-year old Cat’s (former) best friend Patrick is beaten up and left for dead by someone – likely because he’s gay – Cat doesn’t trust that the small town police are trying very hard to find the culprit(s), so she does some digging of her own. Although, everyone knows everyone, for the past three years, Cat has pretty much shunned everyone (including Patrick), except her brother, who was also friends with Patrick, so it’s not that easy to get info out of people. While she learns some new, surprising things about the people she thought she knew, she is trying to come to grips with something that happened to her at the time she began to ignore everyone when she was 13.

I really liked this. As interesting as it was even from the start, it kept building to the end. I also liked the character from out of town who was introduced. There are some nice (mostly repeated, I think) dark illustrations between chapters, and I liked the way the scene was “set” at the start of the book, via what looks like a newspaper clipping, reporting the attack on Patrick.

nov 1, 2021, 10:39 pm

52. Secrets in the Cellar / John Glatt
4 stars

In 1984 in Austria, Josef Fritzl (who had already been raping his middle daughter, Elisabeth, since she was 11-years old), imprisoned her (now 18) in a dungeon under his house that no one knew existed. He had spent six years building it. He kept her there for 24 years, and fathered seven children with her (he already had seven with his wife – Elisabeth being the middle/4th one).

This book does look at all the abuses toward his daughter that just went on and on. Not only that, but previous to all this, he had a history of sexual crimes, only one of which he was convicted and went to jail for. His wife knew nothing about what had happened to Elisabeth – he told everyone she had run away (which would have been no surprise, as she had run away a couple of times previous) to join a religious cult. He took three of the children upstairs to raise them with his wife as adopted/foster children, so he could get the money for them. So, three of the children were raised in the “real world” upstairs, while three others in the dungeon, never seeing sunlight, and rife with all kinds of health issues (the 7th child only lived a few days before dying when Josef refused to get him medical help).

What a monster! Omg, don’t read this if you are at all queasy. I don’t know if I remember this case. She got out with her kids in 2008, only a couple of years after Natasha Kampusch (and I do remember that one). Maybe I don’t remember as much because the entire family ended up changing their names/identities so they could try to get some peace and try to heal. Elisabeth and her children got out of the dungeon in 2008 and the book was published in 2009. The book still managed to get in much of the aftermath, though I did look up more (the trial and to see how Elisabeth and her kids were doing after the end of the book). There is some repetition in the book, but it was well-researched.

nov 11, 2021, 10:34 pm

53. The Lost Boy / Dave Pelzer
3.5 stars

This continues Dave Pelzer’s memoirs after “A Child Called ‘It’”. At 12(?) years old, he is finally rescued from his abusive home life (particularly his mother) by a police officer and placed in a foster home. Until he turns 18, he goes through a number of foster homes, though except for the first one, through no fault of his own. None of his foster homes were bad to him.

This was good. The first chapter did back up just a little bit to give the reader a taste of what he’d had to endure previous to being removed from his biological family’s “care”, before moving on to follow him until he no longer needed to be taken care of via foster homes. He has all good things to say about foster care and the love and support he received after coming out of his previously abusive life. He talks more about this in an Afterword, as well as adding notes from one of his foster mothers, a teacher, and other people who helped him during this stage of his life.

nov 14, 2021, 9:58 pm

54. The Fallout / S. A. Bodeen
3.5 stars

Potential spoilers for book 1: Eli and his family have made it out of the underground compound without his father. They are reunited with Gram and Eli’s twin, Eddy. But it’s not easy fitting back in to a “normal” life after six years underground, especially as the well-known rich family they are as they try to hide from prying eyes. They don’t even know who they can trust.

I liked this. It did show how hard it would be to fit back in to a regular life, for Eli and the family, in addition to Eddy having to get used to this new world, as well. As I noticed at least one other review mention, the science fiction aspect of the book didn’t come into play until near the end, but that didn’t bother me, as I still thought the rest of the book was good, too. There were a couple of surprises near the end – one I’d guessed (just shortly before it was revealed), but I didn’t guess the other at all.

nov 20, 2021, 9:48 pm

55. Ask the Animals / Bruce R. Coston
3.75 stars

This is a memoir by a veterinarian. It focuses more on his life than the animal anecdotes, but those are definitely added in, as well; that is, it the larger focus is on his life in becoming and being a veterinarian (as well as some family life and his own pets).

For the most part I liked it. I found the schooling and the anecdotes interesting. Of his home life, the pets were the best part. I was disappointed, however, to read that at least one of his cats (not sure about the others) was declawed, as was the office cat at his practice.

nov 21, 2021, 5:55 pm

56. Tomboy / Liz Prince
4 stars

This is a graphic novel/memoir by someone who didn’t see herself as a girl, so dressed and acted more like a stereotypical boy. For this, she was bullied and had trouble fitting in, though she mostly managed to find a few friends in her different schools. This graphic novel relives her childhood and teen years in the 1980s and 90s.

I thought this was really good. The reader gets to see some of what she was struggling with as she lived through those years as someone who refused to conform to what girls should look like or do. Though I was never a tomboy, I was certainly also not a “girly girl”, so I could see some things in her that I felt, as well. I really thought this did a good job of showing her struggles.

nov 27, 2021, 3:45 pm

57. Sylvia / Bryce Courtenay
3.5 stars

It’s the 13th century in Germany. Sylvia was young when her mother died and her father abused her. When he died, she was driven from her mother’s home and land by the local people. As she travelled, she met up with Reinhardt, who played lovely music on his flute that often caused rats and other animals to follow him; he called himself the Pied Piper of Hamelin. They travelled together and with her angelic voice and his flute, they entertained people (and/or he drove rats away) to get food to eat and shelter. Sylvia had additional (to the singing) gifts of her own, that when combined with the fish birthmark on her back, people tended to believe she was an angel and miracles happened when she was around.

Eventually, Sylvia and Reinhardt met up with a child, Nicholas, who seemed to have a gift for preaching (at least, when he partook of the mushrooms Sylvia showed him how to consume). Nicholas drew other children to him with his preaching and he decided (well, he was told by Jesus) there would be a “Children’s Crusade” from Germany to Jerusalem.

This was good, but long. A lot of religion in this one, and it seems some of it (but what?) was historically accurate. Unfortunately, the author only included acknowledgments at the end, so the fact that some of this really happened was mentioned but not expanded on, as I was hoping. I assume what really happened was the Children’s Crusade, but I will have to look that up to find out. This is long – almost 500 pages of small font (in the physical book).

Redigerat: nov 28, 2021, 10:13 pm

58. Twelve Patients: Life and Death at Bellevue Hospital / Eric Manheimer
3.5 stars

The author is a doctor and was the head of the Bellevue Hospital in New York City for 14 years, I believe. This book dedicates a chapter each to one patient. One chapter focused on himself and his own bout with cancer.

I thought this was good. He was able to sit down with some of these patients and talk to them and find out more about their backgrounds, so he provides more than the medical information about each one. He talks about their lives, and how they came to be in New York and in the hospital. Some of the patients were immigrants and some were prisoners from the nearby Rikers Prison, and there is more variety in addition.

Given that he also looks at the people’s backgrounds, there is some politics thrown in, as well – some to do with the patients’ countries of origin, some with the way the US handles immigration, and some with public health care in the US and the costs. I have to say the chapter on his own cancer scared me a bit, as he described the treatments and such; what worried me was that I live alone and wonder how I would manage if I need to go through such treatments one day.

dec 2, 2021, 11:50 pm

59. Freedom: My Book of Firsts / Jaycee Dugard
3 stars

This is a follow up to kidnap (and rape) survivor Jaycee Dugard’s first book “My Stolen Life”. She was kidnapped at 11-years old and imprisoned for 18 years and had two daughters when they were found. This book tells of many things she did for the first time after she was free… things like her first plane ride (though she had been on a plane when she was younger), her first shopping trip to a mall, her first horse (she also had a dog and cats – some of the cats came with her from where she’d been imprisoned), and more.

It was good, but she does sound very young, in more ways than one. I did listen to the audio, which she read herself, and her voice sounds young (she must also still look quite young, as she is often mistaken for much younger than she is). But also in the book, she uses a lot of sort of “catch phrases”. I can’t think of the correct term, but young, slang-sounding phrases/sayings.

dec 11, 2021, 9:36 pm

60. Murder at Monticello / Rita Mae Brown
2 stars

This is the third book in this series. The pets in the series understand the humans and provide commentary amongst themselves, though the humans are unable to understand the pets. In this one, a skeleton is found, dating back to 1803, and it appears that the person was hit with something on the back of the head and murdered, so the townspeople are digging through history to see if they can figure out what happened. Part-way through the book, one of the current-day characters is also murdered.

I’m surprised I came up with a coherent summary, but I think it’s fairly accurate. That being said, I just wasn’t interested in what was happening in the book; when I lose interest, I skim and miss much of the goings-on. I assume both murders were cleared up at the end, but I couldn’t say for sure. The animals are somewhat cute/amusing, but even then, not always. I will not be continuing the series.

dec 17, 2021, 9:50 pm

61. Just Mercy / Bryan Stevenson
4 stars

The author is a lawyer and lives in Alabama. He is dedicated (in part) to helping people on death row, many who didn’t have proper representation to start with, many because they are poor. He focuses on one case throughout the book that he keeps coming back to, while interspersing other cases, along with statistics. The one main case follows Walter McMillan, who was convicted of a murder in the 1980s that it was very obvious he didn’t commit. Yet, here he was on death row.

I found this really interesting, And sad. He (and others) is (are) slowly, so slowly, trying to change things to make them better, but what an uphill battle. I listened to the audio and it was well-done; it held my attention pretty much the entire way through. Initially, I hadn’t realized until looking as I write this review, but the author read it himself.

dec 20, 2021, 4:13 pm

62. Beth / Nora Kay
3.75 stars

It’s the early 20th century in Scotland. When Beth is 6-years old, she meets rich girl Caroline, and they become fast friends, even though they are of completely different classes and Caroline often treats Beth as being below her. Caroline’s grandmother does not approve – at all – of this friendship. When Beth’s missionary parents leave the country two years later, Caroline’s father takes Beth in as a companion to Caroline. But tragedy strikes while Beth’s parents are away…

I quite enjoyed this! I’ve had it for years and from the cover, it looks a bit like a romance, so I just never felt like picking it up, but it’s not. Maybe Beth was a bit too “perfect” and things just seemed to often fall into place for her, but I still liked her and I liked the story.

dec 22, 2021, 9:23 pm

63. How Hard Can it Be? / Peter Wiebe, Diana Cruchley
3 stars

This is anecdotes of Peter Wiebe’s life, as told by him to his daughter. He was a Mennonite born in Saskatchewan and later lived in British Columbia. There was nothing extraordinary about his life, but his daughter wanted his memories to be written.

Peter Wiebe was a great-uncle of mine. I don’t believe Dad ever met him. The “stories” (more anecdotes, as they range from one paragraph to five or six, mostly) are ok. They are in Peter’s words, exactly; Diana did not edit them. They are not arranged chronologically, but each chapter is a topic. There is info about Canadian Prairie history, Mennonites in Western Canada, and life in general throughout the 20th century. Given that names are often reused in Mennonite families, the names were often familiar to me, even though they they weren’t people I actually know. And I “recognized” some of the situations and stories told, as similar to other situations and stories that I’ve heard in my family. There are photos included, and any info inserted by Diana is included in the captions to the photos, as well as a short introduction.

dec 27, 2021, 10:25 pm

64. To Fetch a Thief / Spencer Quinn
4 stars

When an elephant and her handler go missing from a circus, it is cancelled to the disappointment of PI Bernie and his son, Charlie. However, since Bernie shows up before he knows about the cancellation, he chats with the police detective who is there to find out more. Later on, Bernie (and his dog Chet, whose POV the book is from) are hired by the handler’s partner (and the circus’s clown) to find out what happened, since the police are treating this as the handler simply having taken the elephant to get away from the circus.

I really liked this one. As always, it’s fun (and sometimes humourous) to read from Chet’s perspective. This one was extra interesting to me with the animal welfare/cruelty angle of circuses.

jan 5, 2022, 10:26 pm

In 2021, I read 64 Roundtuits of 170 (total). That's 38% of what I read.

I have read more in other years, but in other years, I was counting anything on the tbr at least 2 years.

In 2021, the books had to be on the tbr for at least 3 years. I will continue with 3+ years for 2022.

jan 5, 2022, 10:26 pm

2022 Roundtuits
3+ years on the tbr

1. Forgiveness / Mark Sakamoto
4 stars

Mark Sakamoto’s grandparents were on two different sides of WWII. His maternal grandfather fought in the war and was captured and spent years as a prisoner of war, first in Hong Kong, then in Japan. Mark’s paternal grandmother, a Japanese-Canadian, and her family lost their home and livelihood in BC and were sent to rural Alberta to farm. Mark and his brother were born and raised in Medicine Hat, Alberta. After Mark’s parents marriage ended, his mother had a really hard time (to put it lightly, but trying not to give too much away in my summary).

The summaries of this book make it sound like it’s all WWII, but it’s not. I found the book to be an entire biography of his grandparents, then his own – with a focus on his relationship with his mom. I really liked this. A little “bonus” for me was that Mark’s wife is from Assiniboia, Sask, a small town about 45 minutes from the town I grew up in.

jan 7, 2022, 10:24 pm

2. Confessions of a Sociopath / M. E. Thomas
3.5 stars

The author is a sociopath and wants to describe it to others. She is not violent, but she doesn’t feel things the way other people do. She talks about her life and what makes her different from “normal” people.

I thought she did a good job explaining. I have read other books that tell me that not all sociopaths are serial killers, etc. They aren’t all violent, as this author isn’t. I did find some of her comparisons to “empaths” a bit odd, and they often didn’t seem to ring true for me. It was only in the epilogue that she defined how she was using the word to mean non-sociopaths (if she also defined it earlier, I missed it). I listened to the audio and it was done well. I rarely lost interest.

jan 8, 2022, 9:58 pm

Well, this is pretty nice. All four of the first books I'm reading this year are "roundtuits" and have been on my tbr for at least 3 years. :-)

3. Penelope / Rebecca Harrington
2.5 stars

Socially-awkward/inept Penelope is off to Harvard, her mom providing tips for her to make friends, etc. Her roommates don’t seem interested in becoming friends, so Penelope tends to hang out with some of the boys a couple of floors below in their dorm. Eventually, she is roped into helping with a non-speaking part in an experimental/absurdist play.

Everybody in this book was weird. Penelope seems a bit clueless as to academic life (not quite sure how she got into Harvard…). There was a lot of crushes that everyone was having on everyone else; it rarely seemed to be reciprocated. None of the characters were likeable, in my opinion, so I didn’t really care all that much what happened and if they ever got together.

jan 8, 2022, 10:37 pm

4. Small and Tall Tales of Extinct Animals / Helene Rajcak, Damien Laverdunt
4 stars

This is a children’s book with large illustrations and cartoons explaining 27 extinct animals (well, 26 extinct, and at the time of publication, the giant tortoise George would likely to be the last of his species; he has since died). The book is divided into geographical areas and the animals focused on went extinct between 15,000 years ago up George (in 2012). Each animal gets a cartoon that either explains a myth or maybe a person who studied or “discovered” them, a large illustration with info about how/when it went extinct and general bits of info about it, as well as some stats like size, weight, etc.

I really liked this. I got my copy from the library, but to be honest, it’s such a quick read and there is a tiny bit of info about each, I don’t know how much I will remember. For that reason, I feel like this is a book that might be nice to have (though I can’t see myself buying it, but others might want to) in order to look back on.

I liked the little cartoons, and the corner with the stats also showed a silhouette of the animal beside a human for a size comparison (for birds, the silhouette compared the animal to a human hand). I thought that was a nice addition. One I will remember – I had no idea there were once giant 6’ beavers running around North America! It does frustrate me that the majority of these animals went extinct, due to (or at least in part) humans – hunting, habitat loss, and/or bringing invasive species with them. There is also a glossary at the back to help kids understand some of the terminology.

jan 9, 2022, 10:00 pm

5. Click Here for Murder / Donna Andrews
4 stars

Turing is an Artificial Intelligence Personality (AIP) and has been working hard to figure out how humans work. One of the guys at her company, Ray, has been murdered. Ray has only been with the company for 6 months. Turning helps her (and Ray’s) human friends, Tim and Maude, try to figure out what happened after the police assume Ray was involved in drugs and his murder had something to do with that. Turing and friends don’t think this is the case, but they quickly learn that Ray isn’t really who he says he is. What else might Ray have been hiding? And why did Ray want Tim to play this online role-playing game – unfortunately, it kept Tim from meeting Ray the night Ray died.

I really liked this. I think the role playing game upped my interest a bit. I do see I’ve rated it higher than the first in the series (this is the 2nd). Although the game wasn’t everything I was interested in. Finding out who Ray really is, and why he was hiding his identity was also of interest. I just really enjoyed this one, and am glad I continued the series. (I’m sad to see many other ratings are not as high as mine.)

jan 12, 2022, 7:20 pm

Excellent total for 2021, Cindy, and a running start for 2022… Kudos. 👏

jan 12, 2022, 9:40 pm

jan 14, 2022, 9:58 pm

6. The Bluebird Effect / Julie Zickefoose
4 stars

The author grew up with parents who enjoyed watching birds and helping them. As an adult she has regularly helped rehabilitate injured and raise orphaned wild birds, and this book contains stories of all the different types of birds she has helped. She is also an artist, so while helping them, she has drawn them at different stages (often as they grow), so many of her illustrations and paintings, with notes alongside, are included.

I really liked this. I do enjoy watching birds myself, but what a lot of work and effort it takes to raise the babies! The author also touches on habitat destruction, hunting, outdoor cats and other threats to wild birds, as well. The illustrations were beautiful, and I have to admit, although I prefer reading on my old Kobo Touch (black & white), the Kobo doesn’t always recognize DRM-free for library books, anymore, so I often end up reading on my tablet via Libby. The colour was really nice for the beautiful illustrations and paintings in this book.

jan 16, 2022, 6:27 pm

7. The Only Alien on the Planet / Kristen D. Randle
3.5 stars

When Ginny and her family move across the country when Ginny is in grade 12, she does not want to go, and is lonely. She becomes friends with her neighbour, Caulder. There is an odd boy at school, Smitty, who doesn’t talk. None of the kids have ever known him to talk. Not only that, he doesn’t show emotion or any kind of reaction to anything. He is, however, very smart. Ginny is a bit reluctant, but Caulder insists on introducing her to Smitty. The premise behind them visiting is that Ginny needs help with math (she really does!), and Smitty is able to help by showing her how to figure it out on paper. Caulder and Ginny eventually consider themselves “friends” with Smitty, but something soon goes wrong…

I liked this. Ginny and Caulder frustrated me at times when (I felt that) they pushed Smitty too hard or just couldn’t seem to understand why he was having trouble, but I guess – teenagers? And I sometimes wondered what the psychologist was thinking, but what do I know!? I did love the interactions between Ginny and her brothers, though. The last bit of the book picked up a bit with a confrontation, but it wasn’t quite enough to bring my rating up to 4 stars. 3.5 stars is still good for me, though. I liked it.

jan 21, 2022, 10:17 pm

8. Ghost Stories of Saskatchewan 3 / Jo-Anne Christensen
4 stars

This is the third book of Saskatchewan ghost stories written by this author. This one had a few chapters that were a bit different, though. In addition to the ghost stories from around the province, she interviewed a few groups of ghost hunters based in Saskatchewan.

This had me scared enough – when reading by myself at night – to not head down to the basement after reading, before bed, to scoop the cat’s litter box down there! The chapters on the ghost hunters was unexpected, but surprisingly interesting. Although (sadly), none of the ghost stories were really near where I grew up, I quite liked this one.

jan 22, 2022, 10:36 pm

9. A Tap on the Window / Linwood Barclay
4.25 stars

On a dark rainy night, when PI Cal Weaver has a teenage girl knock on his window asking for a ride, he hesitates. But the girl knows his son (his son who died not long ago – via drugs that made him think he could fly… he tried to fly), so Cal feels he can’t refuse (and hopes maybe she can answer some questions for him).

When the girl, Claire, and her friend Hanna do a switch when Claire gets out of the car to use a washroom (Hanna is dressed to look like Claire), it’s not long before Cal figures out it’s not the same girl. But, Hanna refuses to answer questions on what they are doing and tries to jump out of the car. With reservations, Cal decides it’s better to let her out of the car than to have her jump out while the car is moving. The next day, he discovers Claire – the first girl – is missing. And it gets worse...

I really liked this (like most of Barclay’s books). It might not have been as fast paced as some of them, but in the wrap up, there were a couple of surprises, along with a couple of twists to go along with it. With the occasional short chapter from the POV of the “bad guy”, so to speak, I had a guess as to who it was, but I was wrong. To be honest, there is a lot more going on in this book – police corruption and a “fight” with the mayor, Cal and his wife trying to heal, and more.

jan 29, 2022, 4:22 pm

10. Big Boned / Meg Cabot
4 stars

In the 3rd book in the Heather Wells mystery series, the dorm Heather works at is once again the scene of a murder – this time it’s her new boss. Of course, Heather is the one who finds him. It seems not too many people liked him. Heather has been dating Tad, the perfect guy, but he likes running, herbal tea, and is a vegetarian – and is her remedial math instructor.

I really liked this. This was a lot of fun, but they are as much (or maybe more so) chick lit as mystery, with humour thrown in. And there were parts that made me laugh.

feb 20, 2022, 5:00 pm

11. Elizabeth of York: The First Tudor Queen / Alison Weir
3.25 stars

Elizabeth of York was Edward IV and Elizabeth Wydeville’s daughter. During the Wars of the Roses in the 15th century, they were Yorkists. Elizabeth married Henry VII, who was a Lancaster, thus bringing the two sides together. Between them, they began the Tudor era, and Henry VIII was their son. This is meant to be a biography of Elizabeth.

I only say it’s “meant to be” a biography because, as with so many women of the time (including queens), there is just so little information about them. So, really, I feel like it’s more of a history of what happened around her during her life, often with musings as to what Elizabeth may have been doing or feeling at certain times or about certain things. It’s a long book, over 500 pages, and nonfiction, which does tend to go slower for me. There’s a lot of information, much of it I didn’t know (I think this is the first book I’ve read specifically focusing on Elizabeth), and even though I found much of it interesting, there are still dry parts.

feb 23, 2022, 10:11 pm

12. The Grave's a Fine and Private Place / Alan Bradley
3.75 stars

After a recent tragedy, when Dogger takes Flavia and her sisters on a trip by boat, Flavia manages to find a body in the water. As she investigates, she also figures out what happened with three women who’d been poisoned at a church years earlier.

I liked this one. As usual, I listened to the audio and upped my rating by ¼ star for Jayne Entwistle. I liked that Flavia’s sisters seemed to be a bit nicer this time around. For some reason, I don’t remember really “noticing” the humour, but I did this time around. I’m sure I probably did, but for some reason it just didn’t stick in my head.

feb 25, 2022, 11:05 pm

13. A Street Cat Named Bob / James Bowen
4 stars

James had just gotten himself into housing and off the streets. He was a recovering heroin addict when he found an orange cat he called Bob. James was still struggling to feed himself, let alone feed a cat, and take on vet bills as Bob was injured when he first came to James. James was a busker and continued to busk with Bob at his side. Bob helped out in that he attracted a lot of attention, so James made a lot more money than he otherwise would have. When James was kicked out of his favourite busking spots (he was not where musicians were supposed to play), he (and Bob) switched to selling the “Big Issue”, a weekly magazine sold by people down on their luck and trying to get their lives on track.

I really liked this. Bob and James saved each other. It was eye-opening to read about James’ (and likely similar stories to many others living on the streets) homelessness and life on the streets, and how hard it was for him to kick his addiction. It is a quick book to read. The book itself only goes for a couple of years after James and Bob found each other, but looking them up online after finishing, I am saddened to hear that Bob died after being hit by a car in 2020.

Redigerat: mar 5, 2022, 11:01 pm

14. Rare: Portraits of America's Endangered Species / Joel Sartore
4 stars

This is a National Geographic book. The photographer arranged to have photos taken of several endangered species. There are a few plants, but mostly animals. Almost all of these are species deemed endangered by the Endangered Species Act in the U.S.

There are some beautiful photos; the photographer made sure they each had a completely black or completely white background for the photos. In addition to the photos, each species also has a paragraph with information about it including where to find it, the habitat, why it’s endangered, etc. Some of them also have an additional note by the photographer on how the photo was taken. Some of the photos are close-up, so are very detailed.

mar 5, 2022, 11:24 pm

15. The Greatest Traitor: The Life of Sir Roger Mortimer... / Ian Mortimer
3.5 stars

Sir Roger Mortimer was close to Edward II when they were younger, but because Edward didn’t listen to anyone beyond his favourites while he was ruling, he turned many people away from him, including Mortimer. Later on, it seems Mortimer and Edward’s wife, Queen Isabella, carried on a dalliance. Most historians agree that Mortimer had Edward II murdered, while Mortimer and Isabella “ruled” through Edward III (Edward II and Isabella’s teenaged son). This author suggests something a little bit different to Edward II’s end, however.

This was nonfiction, so it took a while to read. It also took a bit for me to get interested, but I did like it maybe starting about 1/3 of the way in or so (or maybe a bit before that). It also got me curious about Robert (the) Bruce in Scotland. I’m not sure about Mortimer (the author)’s proposal for what happened to Edward II, but it was interesting to read about. That being said, I have not read anything about Roger Mortimer before this (except likely in reading about Isabella). I liked the way the author presented his alternate theory. He went through everything to the end of Roger’s life, then backed up with a chapter called “Chapter Twelve Revisited”, which explained what he thinks might have happened instead.

mar 6, 2022, 9:46 pm

16. Shopaholic Ties the Knot / Sophie Kinsella
4 stars

When Becky and Luke get engaged, they have mothers on both sides of the ocean wanting to plan the wedding and have it held in England (Becky’s mom) and New York City (Luke’s mom). As the mothers plan in different countries, Becky just can’t decide where she wants to have her wedding… and the plans continue onward with neither mother knowing the other mother is also planning! And Becky just can’t seem to come to a decision and can’t bring herself to tell anyone the crisis she’s having in trying to decide – she doesn’t want to let anyone down.

I feel like “chick lit” is not the kind of thing I think I would like, but when I do read it, I really do (most of the time) tend to really enjoy it! This book (and series) is no exception there (even though I don’t shop, am not “into” fashion, and I often get annoyed with Becky. I did feel like I had a solution for her early(ish) on in the book, and it kind-of (but not completely) went how I was thinking. But, I still enjoyed the ride (even when I was frustrated with Becky). There was a more serious side to this one, as well, involving Luke and his mother.

mar 20, 2022, 4:09 pm

17. Not the Killing Type / Lorna Barrett
3.5 stars

Tricia’s sister Angelica is running for Chamber of Commerce president to replace realtor Bob Kelly, who has been the president for a long time. Unfortunately, on a break during the meeting, the third candidate, Stan, is found (by Tricia, of course!) murdered on the toilet! Obvious suspects are Bob and Angelica, but Tricia wants to prove otherwise.

I’m still enjoying this series. I like most of the characters. I learned that Tricia is a bit of a “scrooge” (my word/description) when it comes to Christmas decorations. (But then, I like lots of decorations; maybe people who like simple, plain, understated Christmas decos would disagree!) The premise of such a small town with such niche stores (even with tourists to support them), seems unlikely to me (having grown up in a small town where there was no book store at all, let alone niche bookstores!), but that’s ok – the stores weren’t the focus of this book, anyway. I listened to the audio and it was good; it kept my attention.

mar 20, 2022, 9:53 pm

18. Blue Meridian / Peter Matthiessen
2.5 stars

In the 1970s, the author managed to get himself on an excursion that is filming a movie about sharks. Matthiessen learns how to dive with one of those cages to keep him safe from any sharks that may come by.

The book couldn’t keep my attention and I kept falling asleep (granted, it was also a busy, stressful week). It was very slow to read, even when I was paying attention. I wasn’t happy with the animals (particularly the whales) they used as bait to attract the sharks. There was also very little about the sharks themselves, beyond how dangerous they are. I wanted to know more about the sharks, and not the emphasis on how dangerous, which I feel has contributed to the scary shark stereotype. But then, the focus was more on making the movie. The cages were cool – it sounded like they were fairly new at the time. There were some really good photos included in the book. Overall, though, I was disappointed in this.

mar 25, 2022, 11:32 pm

19. Lucky / Alice Sebold
4 stars

Alice Sebold was an 18-year old virgin when she was brutally beaten and raped in 1981 on the last day of her first college school year. When she returned for her second year, in October she saw her rapist and immediately went to the police. The book follows the trial and how she tried to continue on with her life after.

This was a compelling read and Alice does not hold back in her detailed account of the rape and she goes into detail about what happens after and the trial. Though not in the book, I’m marking this a As I look up the man now, I’m shocked! He was not her rapist! Debating about bringing down my rating, but I don’t like doing that. The rating is based on what I thought of the book itself. She was tough. She immediately knew she wanted to find the man and have him sent to jail. It was unfortunate – some of the decisions she made as she got older, but I guess that could be chalked up to PTSD.

apr 3, 2022, 2:27 pm

20. The Tusk that did the Damage / Tania James
2.5 stars

This book follows an elephant, two filmmakers at a sanctuary(?) in India doing a story on a vet, and a poacher. The chapters alternate between the three. The elephants mother was killed when he was a baby and he was stolen, raised to perform.

I didn’t really like this (surprisingly since it’s an animal book). I didn’t care about the humans and those chapters (mostly) bored me. I liked the elephant chapters at first, but they went downhill because they weren’t all from the elephant’s point of view (as I’d expected), but some of those chapters followed the “handlers” more and there was a bit of elephant mythology (which often would interest me, but in this case, I was bored). Overall, though, the book did pick up in the last 1/3 or so and I was more interested, but it was only enough to bring my rating up by a ½ star. Although I’m not even certain what happened at the very end, and although I see other reviews say the three stories came together, I completely missed where the filmmakers’ story fit in.

apr 8, 2022, 9:45 pm

21. Journey Toward Justice / Dennis Fritz
4 stars

In 1982, Debbie Carter was raped and murdered in Ada, Oklahoma. Four or five years later, Dennis Fritz and his friend Ronnie Williamson were arrested. Dennis knew nothing at all about the murder, but he was tried and sentenced to life in prison, based on next-to-no evidence. In prison, Dennis spent as much time as he possibly could in the law library to figure out how to prove his innocence and get out of there. Finally, after 11 (12?) years, DNA set him (and Ron) free.

The is the same murder covered in John Grisham’s “The Innocent Man”, though Grisham focused on Ronnie, and of course was an outsider’s point of view, whereas Fritz’s book is a memoir, so we see what all happened through his own eyes – an innocent men arrested and on trial for a murder he knew nothing about. Interesting book (and frustrating – between the lack of evidence to begin with and all those letters Dennis wrote to higher and higher levels of court to try to get someone to listen to him!).

Dennis did learn a lot about how the law works while he was in prison, and there were times in the book where he used legal terms and phrases and I wasn’t quite sure what exactly he meant, though the gist was there. But a bit of an explanation would have been nice. Oh, and Dennis was a single dad with a 13-year old daughter at the time of his arrest, so really sad that his daughter had to go through that, as well.

apr 15, 2022, 2:29 pm

22. The Stone Monkey / Jeffery Deaver
4 stars

When a ship full of Chinese illegal immigrants comes close to shore in the U.S., the Coast Guard heads out to meet them. But the “snakehead” (nicknamed “the Ghost”) -- the guy they paid to get them to the U.S. -- locks everyone (including the captain and crew) except his assistant below deck, and blows up the ship! A few people manage to escape, but it seems the Ghost won’t stop until he kills them all.

I thought this was really good. The story was told from multiple points of view, including Amelia Sachs, the Ghost, a Chinese cop that came on the boat and managed to escape the blast, and two families that also escaped the ship. It’s darker than I usually like (although some darker ones I do like – and this was one of them). I don’t see that this is tagged noir or hard-boiled, but it seemed pretty gritty and dark to me. There was a good twist in this one. Have to admit, I’m not a big fan of Lincoln and Amelia’s relationship, though.

apr 20, 2022, 5:21 pm

23. Wild Awake / Hilary T. Smith
3 stars

Kiri’s parents are away on a cruise and have left her on her own. I think she’s 17? She is part of a musical duo with her best friend, Lukas, and they have Battle of the Bands coming up. Kiri is also a very good piano player and has a test(? competition?) coming up. When she receives a strange phone call about her (long-dead) sister, she learns something (big) her parents never told her about her sister’s death. This starts a series of events that has Kiri spiralling out of control.

I didn’t like Kiri, nor many of the choices she made. The book became kind of chaotic as we moved more and more toward the end. I did like the Vancouver setting – it’s always fun recognizing places. I also thought the idea of Kiri never learning what she does about her sister’s death until the start of this book (5 years later) is pretty unrealistic. I can’t imagine she wouldn’t have heard it somewhere, even if not from her parents or brother. The book still (at least more at the start and throughout the first half or so) interested me enough to consider it “ok”.

maj 1, 2022, 6:17 pm

24. Cradle to Cradle / William McDonough & Michael Braungart
3.25 stars

The authors are an architect and a chemist who work together to make/create more environmentally-friendly/sustainable items. They actually start off by saying that what we mostly do now is not good enough; that is, there are still issues with trying to be not “as bad” vs. all-out bad. They want to make things “good” (for human health, for the environment, and even for company’s/industry’s bottom lines, economically. They say it can be done (and they have examples of things they’ve done working with various companies to do those things).

It’s probably something we need to hear, but it’s new, and so for some things, I had a hard time wrapping my head around the ideas: eco-effective vs eco-efficient, upcycling vs downcycling, biological nutrients and technical nutrients, and more. I think I figured out downcycling -- when we currently recycle, this is what happens. This means that the items we recycle are being reused/remade, but they are of lower quality. Because they are of lower quality, more potential toxins/chemicals need to be added to “shore things up”, so to speak. I’m probably not explaining that well.

They did have some good examples and I think they are probably correct in what they are suggesting, but it was hard for me to figure all of it out. Maybe there needs to be more written on this, as the more I read, I’ll likely clue in a bit better. But what’s unfortunate (and I hadn’t realized) is that this book was published 20 years ago, in 2002. Without having heard much more about these concepts, I’m concerned that they haven’t really taken root, still.

maj 15, 2022, 4:38 pm

25. MirrorMask / Neil Gaiman
2 stars

Helena comes from a circus family and when her mother (not long after they’ve fought) ends up in the hospital, Helena has odd dreams.

This was just odd, I thought. Apparently a movie came first? This has illustrations throughout and it’s short. Since the bulk of the book was a dream, like many dreams it just went from odd happening to odd happening.

maj 16, 2022, 10:27 pm

26. Offshore / Catherine Dook
3.5 stars

Catherine and her husband John live on a boat off the coast of British Columbia. This book details a few short sailing trips they took, mostly with the intention of being gone longer than they were, turning back mostly due to weather issues (and not really being very good sailors!). On the trip where they’d hoped to sail to Hawaii, they brought two additional crew members, Aussie John and Kiwi John; at that point, Catherine’s husband was “John Darling”.

This was short and I had to shake my head a bit at the foibles. But it was entertaining and a bit amusing with some humour thrown in. I enjoyed it.

maj 22, 2022, 11:43 pm

27. Tituba of Salem Village / Ann Petry
3.5 stars

This is a fictional account of the Salem witches in the late 17th century. Told from the point of view of Tituba, who was a slave in Barbados, sold along with her husband to Reverend Samuel Parris who moved with them to Boston hoping to get a position there, but settled for a position in Salem Village. The Parris’s had two young girls in their care – their only daughter, Betsey, and their niece, Abigail. When the young girls started having fits and blaming it on witches, it was Tituba, along with two others who were first named as the witches causing the fits.

I thought this was good; I liked it. About 2/3 of the book was leading up to the witch accusations, some of which was just them all getting settled first in Boston, then in Salem -- a small village where Tituba and her husband were not used to such cold. In this fictional account, Abigail really comes off as a troublemaker – you can see it coming. (She was the first to start having “fits”.) There was a short point form section at the end that explained some of the things that really did happen.

maj 23, 2022, 4:17 pm

28. Our Souls at Night / Kent Haruf
3.75 stars

Louis (pronounced Lewis – I listened to the audio) is surprised when Addie, whom he doesn’t know well, though he knows who she is, approaches him to relieve lonely nights by sleeping together (literally sleeping side-by-side). They are older and their spouses are gone, and they are lonely. Louis decides to give it a try. It’s not long before Addie’s son, Gene, and his wife decide to separate, so Gene brings his 6-year old son, Jamie, to live with Addie for a while, so Addie and Louis now have a grandson in the house, as well.

This was good. I loved the relationship between Addie, Louis, and Jamie (and the dog!), but wth is wrong with Gene!? How can he be so awful to his mother about all this? My grandpa, some years after my grandma died, had a lady friend/companion, and I don’t know that either my mom or her sister (Grandpa’s daughters) had an issue with it. Really Gene? Can you not let your mother be happy? Ugh!

maj 28, 2022, 3:03 pm

29. The Wilderness Warrior / Douglas Brinkley
3.25 stars

President Theodore Roosevelt was a bird lover, a lover of nature in general, and also a hunter. As president from 1901- 1909, he created numerous national parks and monuments and expanded more; he brought in laws protecting birds, as well as created hunting seasons and licensing. He admired Darwin and his theories. He did a lot for conservation in the United States in the early 20th century.

Sadly, I also felt he was very contradictory due to his joy of hunting (including trophy hunting!) Yes, he did a LOT for conservation, but that was dimmed (in my opinion) by his love of hunting, particularly big game, in many cases just to put the animal’s head on his wall. Even in some of his parks, he still allowed hunting, but only of predators, not prey. This was a very long book at just under 1000 pages, so there were times I lost interest. I did learn some interesting things, too – I didn’t know “teddy bears” were named after him (but he didn’t like being called “Teddy”, either).

maj 29, 2022, 4:34 pm

30. The Last Wild Wolves / Ian McAllister.
4.5 stars

The author is a photographer and lives on the northern coast of British Columbia. He has taken many wildlife photos and helped with studies of the local wolf populations where he is. This is a coffee-table-style book with plenty of large photographs, alongside information about the wolves, and an epilogue that includes information about the destruction and conservation of the area.

Oh, they are beautiful. And sadly, so vilified. I hate people. I hate hunters – there are stories in the epilogue of some awful hunters. I hate the humans behind the companies that only want to make money and don’t care what they destroy to do it, as they destroy the habitats for most animals. These wolves are in an area that is less disturbed by humans, but it’s hard to say if that will last.

Getting beyond that, the wolves and the photos are beautiful. The area itself is beautiful, and there are a few photos that are not of the wolves, though of course, the bulk of the photos are. The information about the wolves was interesting – I didn’t know that wolves and ravens have a symbiotic relationship; wolves will hunt and eat many birds, but there has never been remains of ravens found in their scat. There is also a 20-ish minute DVD included with the book, a short documentary that says some of the same as what the book says, but of course the “photos” are now a video. And have I mentioned how beautiful they are!?

jun 4, 2022, 10:02 pm

31. First Snow, Last Light / Wayne Johnston
3 stars

When Ned is 14-years old, he comes home from school to find no one home. This is unusual. It turns out both his parents have disappeared. The book follows Ned as an adult and looks back on his life without his parents in it. Sheilagh Fielding, a reporter and friend of Ned’s father, becomes a good friend to Ned. In 1949, when Newfoundland becomes a part of Canada, the last child born before that time is referred to as “The Last Newfoundlander”. Ned ends up adopting the orphan and also takes in the boy’s destitute aunt.

The book alternates between Sheilagh’s point of view and Ned’s (with a couple of chapters devoted to two other characters). I really have no interest in Sheilagh. She bores me and I don’t like her. Unfortunately, Ned’s missing-parents mystery really wasn’t touched on for most of the book, but we did come back to it at the end. That, of course for me, was the most interesting part of the book. So because of that, I found the start and end much more interesting than the rest of the book. Overall, I’m rating it ok, but it definitely picked up at the end, not only when Ned finally found out what happened, but what happened after that.

I listened to the audio, which had four different narrators. It was done well, although I still lost focus occasionally, but I don’t believe that was due to it being an audio book.

jun 20, 2022, 10:01 pm

32. In One Person / John Irving
3 stars

William (Bill/Billy) is in boarding school and a young teen when he begins to question why he has crushes on the “wrong people”. He has a crush on one of the wrestlers in school, and also the older (woman) librarian; he also has a crush on a friend’s mother, as well as his own stepfather. In the book, he is an older man (bisexual) and looking back on his life and his relationships over the decades.

I thought this was ok. There was a lot of sex. Of all kinds. Have to admit I got a bit tired of that after a while. But, I thought it got a bit more interesting (and sad) in the 80s when AIDS hit. To see him watch so many people he knew die of AIDS… Initially I was a bit confused with the storyline, as it was a bit back and forth in time and trying to keep track of who was whom and when they were in his life, but after a while, I think I got used to that. I was a bit surprised at how many people in this small town were lgbtq+, though. Maybe there weren’t as many as I thought, as it was spread out over time, but it seemed like a lot.

jun 24, 2022, 10:35 pm

33. The Dorito Effect / Mark Schatzker
4 stars

This is a look at food and flavour. For decades now, food has become very bland – this includes meat, fruit, and vegetables. Because the companies and farmers want more and more yield for less and less money. This = no more flavour. So companies started creating flavours to make the food taste like what they should have already tasted like… and flavours to make foods taste like whatever they want them to taste like. But with the real flavour gone, so is much of the nutrition. And that is not getting put back into the foods, only fake chemical “flavours”.

This was so interesting. And so sad. It makes me want to go back in time to taste all the flavours that used to come (naturally) with food (without having to add fake flavours, sauces, spices, etc). A few people here and there are trying to bring back some of the original strains for some of the foods (chicken, tomatoes), but the industrial farmers and companies don’t want any part of it unless it can be done just as cheaply and create just as much yield. Sad sad sad. Would love to have some companies catch on to this (and yes, I realize it would be more pricey).

jun 26, 2022, 6:19 am

>197 LibraryCin: So that’s why food doesn’t taste the same any more? I thought my tastebuds were wearing out with age ☺️. (No, seriously, I did.)
I’d certainly be willing to pay more for ‘proper’-tasting food.

Redigerat: jun 26, 2022, 5:15 pm

>198 Sergeirocks: I’d certainly be willing to pay more for ‘proper’-tasting food.

I would, too. I already pay more for organic (which he mentions in the book is not always better for taste) - for some things, anyway.

ETA: And yes, I've simplified things for the summary, but obviously if you decide to read the book, you'll find out more.

jun 27, 2022, 2:39 pm

34. The Runaway Wife / Rowan Coleman
3.5 stars

Rose and her 7-year old daughter, Maddie, show up at a B&B in a small town in the middle of the night. It turns out Rose has – on the spur of the moment – left her abusive husband. Rose’s own father left when Rose was only 9, and her mother died when she was 17. It was not long after, she met and married the older doctor, Richard. Unfortunately, now, Rose doesn’t know where to go, so she follows a picture on a postcard to this small town.

The postcard came from Frasier, a man she met once at her door when she was pregnant. Frasier was looking for John, Rose’s father and an artist, as Frasier was an art dealer. But he was a nice man and such a bright spot in Rose’s dreary day, home alone, long estranged from her own friends, that he’d become a fantasy for her over the following years. To Rose’s surprise, though she was following the postcard in hopes of finding Frasier, she also found her father, whom she hadn’t heard a word from since he’d left.

This was good. The bulk of the story revolves around Rose’s new life (though there are flashbacks to find out what exactly happened with Richard), her new friends in Millthwaite, and her emerging relationship with her father. I quite liked many of the secondary characters, particularly Jenny, the owner of the B&B.

jul 2, 2022, 2:32 pm

35. The Queen and Lord M / Jean Plaidy
3.5 stars

This is Plaidy’s second book about Queen Victoria. This book opens when Victoria learns she is to be queen at 18-years old. Her first few years as queen are very much directed by the Prime Minister at the time, Lord Melbourne. She becomes very close to him. She has a couple of scandals along the way and things look bad to the public with her reaction when she almost loses him as Prime Minister. The book ends just as she marries.

This was good. By now I’ve read a bit more about Victoria than I had when I read Plaidy’s first book about her. But this one had much more detail about her relationship with the P.M. Wish she hadn’t relied solely on Melbourne’s advice, but this is what really happened.

jul 3, 2022, 10:07 pm

36. Next of Kin: My Conversations with Chimpanzees / Roger Fouts
4.5 stars

Roger Fouts was a psychology student in the late 1960s when he got a job helping with a chimpanzee, Washoe, to study whether or not chimps could learn human language by way of ASL (American Sign Language). Despite that he really wanted/planned to work with kids, this began decades of research with, then activism for, chimpanzees. He and his family (wife and eventually three kids) moved where Washoe was either sent or where was best for her. Roger was unable to help many other chimpanzees he met along with way (though he was able to help a few), but (often with Jane Goodall’s help), he fought to make living conditions for chimpanzees used in research in the U.S. better.

He was still fighting for changes in 1997 when the book was published, but on checking today, things have gotten better – not for all chimps, but for many (most?). There were a few sections in the book where he was talking about research and studies that got just a bit dry, but for the most part, I loved reading about the chimps and the studies and was (to no surprise) horrified at what he saw in the medical research labs. Whether in my psychology or anthropology classes 30ish years ago, I had heard of both Fouts and Washoe, as well as many of the other scientists and studies Fouts mentions in this book. I went through a bunch of emotions reading this book – happiness, sadness, anger... I love that he ended up being an activist, and wanted(s) to see change. I can’t believe it took me so long to finally read this book!

jul 12, 2022, 10:32 pm

37. Pit Bull: The Battle Over an American Icon / Bronwen DIckey
4.5 stars

The first half of the book starts with a history of dog breeds, dog fighting, “pit bulls” (however defined, as it constantly changes, but it’s mostly based on looks although there is one actual “American Pit Bull” breed, but many others tend to be lumped in, as well) as seen in history. In the second half of the book, the focus is more on dog bites, breed specific legislation, the media and politics.

The author has done an incredible amount of research here. She looks deeper into some of the media accounts (which are rarely, if ever, based on any kind of proper research), interviews people (on both sides of the “debate” over whether “pit bulls” should be banned or not). I learned of a few myths (like “bait dogs” – apparently they don’t really use bait dogs to train dogs to fight).

This was really interesting and I was impressed how, with very little information she was able to dig deeper, particularly into statistics, to find that most of the stats in the media accounts are just not based on valid (can’t think of a good word) stats. That is, one of the first “peer reviewed” (shoddily done, it seems) articles (which, of course, was then cited in later peer reviewed articles) that did find that pit bulls caused the most deaths was based on very flawed stats (“flawed” is the word I’m looking for).

I’m really impressed with this book and the amount of research that went into it. I feel like a lot more people should read it!

jul 16, 2022, 3:33 pm

38. The Diving-Bell and the Butterfly / Jean-Dominique Bauby
2.5 stars

The author, from France, suffered a stroke at 44 years old. It didn’t kill him – instead, he woke up with (I think he called it) “locked-in syndrome” (or something similar). His brain was all intact, but he was completely paralyzed, except for being able to blink one eye. This is his “memoir”, as told by blinking that eye every time the correct letter was suggested, one-letter-at-a-time. He died a very short time after the book was published.

I guess it makes sense that the book was short and the chapters were short, given how difficult and how much time it must have taken to “write” this book. The chapters read like little essays. I found the chapters about his ordeal much more interesting than the random chapters on his dreams or reminiscences – those just seemed to ramble and I found them boring. I like the idea of the book, and it’s incredible that he was able to do it at all, but it just wasn’t very interesting to me.

jul 16, 2022, 3:58 pm

39. Iced / Karen Marie Moning
3 stars

This is a continuation of the author’s “Fever” series, but told from the point of view of 14-year old Dani. This is a Dublin filled with Fae. Dani thinks of herself as a superhero with superspeed, superhearing, and super other things. She and a friend(?) are kind of “kidnapped” by a supernatural being (what kind… not sure, but must have been some kind of fae), Ryodan, and forced to sign a contract to work for him as he and Dani tried to figure out what was randomly icing over various locations and all the people in those locations, ultimately killing the humans.

It’s been too many years since I read the Fever series, and I didn’t find that the author did much in the way of recap, or what she did do wasn’t enough to really help me remember much of what was going on or who was who. The new storyline in this one – the mystery of what was causing locations and people to be “iced” – I found interesting. I thought I liked Dani as a secondary character (from what I recall) in the other books, but I didn’t like her much in this one. And all those horny men after a 14-year old!? Ugh! I am still rating it ok for trying to figure out what was causing the ice and the monsters they fought in the story.

jul 24, 2022, 3:48 pm

40. Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology / Leah Remini
4 stars

Leah Remini is an actress, mostly known (I think – at least by me!) for her role as Carrie on “The King of Queens”, which ran for 9 years in the late ‘90s into the 2000s. The bulk of this book, however, focuses on her 35 years as part of the Scientology community before she left the church.

When Leah was a child, her mother’s boyfriend was a Scientologist, so her mom, sister, and Leah all became very involved in the church. Leah always knew she wanted to act and when she was 18, she got her first tv role. In Scientology, celebrities are highly regarded, as they can bring good PR to the church and recruit more people. It was, in particular, after Leah met Tom Cruise, though they initially got along well, that things took a turn when Leah started questioning things.

I don’t read many celebrity biographies/memoirs, but I wanted to read this one after reading another book about someone (a non-celebrity) who escaped Scientology, so that was my initial interest. Leah’s career brought her in contact with other celebrity Scientologists and so the two topics are entwined. I did find some of her stories of her acting and tv life interesting, as well. It was frustrating, angering, and sad for Leah (and the reader) as she learned of more and more transgressions of higher authorities in the church. She never did find out where the wife of the leader disappeared to after years of hearing nothing from a woman Leah had considered a friend (and it appears that is still unknown). There are photos included from when she was little to not long before the book was published.

jul 30, 2022, 10:35 pm

41. The Virgin Queen's Daughter / Ella March Chase
3 stars

Although Nell’s mother was once at court, she has kept Nell from going. But when Nell meets Queen Elizabeth, she is intrigued and vows to go when she’s old enough. And she does. But after she is there, things become dangerous.

Ok, not a great summary. I listened to the audio and did lose interest a number of times. Unfortunately, for some reason, although historical fiction used to be one of my favourite genres, it doesn’t always grab me like it used to. Also, Elizabeth has never been my favourite historical person to read about. I’m not sure what it is (or isn’t) about her, but books abour her don’t usually catch my interest for long. I’m rating it 3 stars (ok), but I feel a bit like I’m rating it higher than I should.

aug 6, 2022, 10:25 pm

42. Reflections of Eden: My Years with the Orangutans of Borneo / Birute Galdikas
4 stars

Birute Galdikas is the Jane Goodall of orangutans. Like with Jane (but 10 or 11 years later), Birute was recruited by Louis Leakey to do field work. So in 1971, Birute and her husband Rod headed to Borneo to study orangutans. Once they arrived, they found that – although illegal – people also kept orangutans as pets. Birute decided immediately that she wanted to also start a sort of nursery/sanctuary/rehab where these once-captive orangutans (mostly infants) could come, then head back to the wild when they were ready. And as with all great apes, the habitat is disappearing around them, making it very difficult for them to survive, so Birute and Rod also tried to get help creating and enforcing the boundaries of the reserve that held many of the orangutans.

The book was published in 1995 and at that time, Birute was still in Borneo doing her orangutan studies. The book also goes into detail about Birute’s personal life – her marriage(s) and children. I’ve read lots about Jane Goodall and Dian Fossey, but except for one graphic novel that included all three, this is the first I’ve read about Birute. Her book alternates chapters between some of the orangutans and the other topics in the book (though, of course, they all overlap). Very good book, but know that there is a lot more to this one than “just” the animals.

aug 8, 2022, 10:31 pm

43. Remembering the Bones / Frances Itani
3.5 stars

79-year old Georgie is on her way to the airport as she has been invited by Queen Elizabeth to their shared 80th birthday celebration. Unfortunately, Georgie’s car goes off an embankment and lands in a ravine. Georgie is alive, but too hurt to move from where she landed and she and her car are not visible from the road. As she waits for rescue, she goes through memories of her family and her life.

This was good. The initial crash brought me in and although the memories initially weren’t as interesting, I found it picked up a bit when Georgie got married, so I liked the second half of the story better. I also liked the comparisons to “Lilibet’s” (Queen Elizabeth’s) life and the little royal tidbits brought in that way. I thought it was amusing that all the women in Georgie’s family had names that shortened into “male” names: Phil, Fred (she had an Aunt and Uncle Fred when her Aunt Fred married a Fred), Grand Dan… (ok, not quite all, but most).

aug 13, 2022, 11:16 pm

44. The Witches: Salem, 1692 / Stacy Schiff
3.25 stars

This is a detailed history of the witch accusations and trials in Massachusetts in 1692, not just in Salem, but in neighbouring areas, as well.

I listened to the audio and did miss parts. What I heard more of, I would rate 3.5 stars “good”. But it’s unfortunate I missed the stuff I did as I got distracted from listening. I do feel like I might have taken in more if I’d read it. I don’t think I’d previously read as much of the aftermath as this book included, not just in the surrounding areas but about the people after everything died down. I did like that the narrator also read the footnotes.

aug 15, 2022, 10:22 pm

45. Dance of Death / Douglas Preston, Lincoln Child
3.5 stars

A professor uses his fingers to rip off his own face in front of a class of horrified students. Someone falls from stories above a restaurant and falls through into the restaurant – this one sort of looks like a suicide, but there are lots of odd things about it. Possible spoiler for previous book(s) in series NYPD detective (?) D’Agosta is surprised to learn the his friend and FBI agent Pendergast is still alive. Pendergast tells D’Agosta that his brother, Diogenes (also thought to be dead) is actually alive and has the perfect crime planned for a week away; Pendergast needs D’Agosta’s help to stop it.

The chapters follow a lot of different characters. I find it sometimes jars me out of the story, and I tend to lose focus at the start of many of the chapters as we are reintroduced to whomever we are following this chapter and what is happening at that moment with them. Oddly, even though in reviews of previous books in the series, I commented on characters I liked, I’m not sure I really liked any of the characters in this one. However, I do like that so many of the characters come back from previous books. Characters that initially don’t seem connected (or maybe that’s just my fuzzy memory!). There was a twist near the end and the epilogue set up the next book in the series. I did like this enough to continue the series.

aug 17, 2022, 10:56 pm

46. Annabel / Lauren Oliver
3 stars

This is a short story set in the “Delirium” dystopian series. It follows the mother of Rachel and Leah who is in prison for some reason. Despite how short the story is, it flashes back and forth in time to when Annabel is “cured” (nothing really explains what she is cured of – love, I think? There are hints, and my vague memory of other books in the series), then is matched with her husband.

As noted in the summary, I don’t remember much of the rest of the series, and this one is so short, it’s hard to fill in the blanks with anything to refresh my awful memory. Overall the story was ok, but I would have liked to be able to fit it in with the rest of the series better. Plus, it didn’t really end, but this was meant to be .5 in the series, so set before the first book, so maybe the first book followed up? I don’t recall.

aug 20, 2022, 11:26 pm

47. All Around the Town / Mary Higgins Clark
4 stars

Laurie was only 5-years old when she was kidnapped. Two years later, she was let go, but she had blocked out everything from the time she was with her abductors. When Laurie is in the early 20s and her sister Sarah, a lawyer, now in her late 20s, their parents die. More trauma. Laurie is now in college and has a good relationship with one of her professors, but when he is found murdered, signs point to Laurie. She doesn’t remember.

It wasn’t fast paced, but many psychological “thrillers” aren’t. This was much about the psychology. Really interesting read; I imagine the author would have had to do a chunk of research on this. I’ve not read much about it; I think I have only one other book tagged multiple personality disorder, which is actually surprising as I do find it fascinating.

sep 3, 2022, 10:49 pm

48. Abundance / Sena Jeter Naslund
3 stars

This is a fictional account of Marie Antoinette’s life, as she moved from being a princess in Austria to the queen of France before the French Revolution overthrew the French monarchy.

I listened to the audio and it just didn’t draw me in much, so since I was often distracted, I did miss much of it. I have read only one or two other books on Marie Antoinette. I found some of the vocabulary used in the book a bit… “pretentious”? I can’t think of a good word – “high-falutin’”? (LOL!) I suppose pretentious works. That certainly didn’t help get me more interested. I am still rating it ok, as it did pick up a bit toward the end during the Revolution. I did find interesting what happened to Marie and Louis’ son and daughter after their parents were put to death. I likely did read of that previously, but I had forgotten.

sep 11, 2022, 11:20 pm

49. Titanic Survivor / Violet Jessop & John Maxtone-Graham
3 stars

Violet Jessop was a cabin steward in many different cruise ships during the early 20th century, taking over after her mother was no longer able to do the same work. However, there were very few women who did this job at the time. Violet survived not only the Titanic sinking, but also when the Britannic sank during the war.

This was ok. There wasn’t nearly as much about the Titanic as I’d hoped. I do normally like biographies/memoirs, as well, but I just didn’t find this one all that interesting. And I’ve done cruises, so that is often interesting to me, as well. I just didn’t find her writing interesting, unfortunately. John Maxtone-Graham was the editor of Violet’s writings and he did interject tidbits of info and speculation into the book, and that didn’t bother me at all, but in the ebook it was sometimes hard to tell when it was Violet’s words or his; italics or square brackets of some other indicator would have been nice.

I wondered at times if she was making some of it up, to be honest. One thing that made me think that was repetition of common things (that were apparently incorrect, like musicians playing “Nearer My God to Thee”) that have been said. She also used pseudonyms for some people, which is fine, but the editor mentioned at one point that he wondered if some of the passengers mentioned were mashes (my word, not his – can’t recall the word/phrase he used) of multiple people Overall – ok, but I’m not sure this should be at the top of anyone’s Titanic reading list.

sep 14, 2022, 10:44 pm

50. Grey Matters / Clea Simon
3.5 stars

Ducie is a grad student working on her thesis. Just after she meets with her advisor, she comes out of the building only to stumble upon a murder victim, another man in the English department. In her personal life, she is feeling lonely as her boyfriend is spending almost all his time working; her best friend/roommate has a new boyfriend; her beloved pet cat, Mr. Grey, had recently passed away, although his ghost visits her, still, and she has a new black and white, still unnamed, kitten.

Like with the first book in the series (this is the 2nd), there was more academic-speak in the book than I would have liked. I wasn’t necessarily all that excited to hear, in so much detail, about Dulcie’s thesis. I wasn’t sure initially if I would continue the series after this one (primarily) because of that. Not a big fan of ghost-cats talking, either. But as the end came around, I decided I like it enough that I would try the next book, as well.

sep 17, 2022, 11:21 pm

51. Long Walk to Freedom / Nelson Mandela
4 stars

Nelson Madela was a lawyer, then involved for most of his life with the ANC (African National Congress), when he fought for the rights of black Africans and against apartheid when that was instituted in the 1950s. He went to prison in 1963 and spend almost three decades there as a political prisoner (alongside other members of the ANC and other similar political groups) before being freed in 1990. This is his autobiography up to when he became president of South Africa in 1994.

In the first half, I found his personal life more interesting than his work/political life. But the second half really picked up for me. I found his time as a prisoner the most interesting part of the book. He (and the other political prisoners) managed to continue to fight as much as they could from within the prison walls. He really was an amazing man, but sadly his family life suffered for everything he did for the people of South Africa.

sep 28, 2022, 10:26 pm

52. To See You Again / Betty Schimmel
4 stars

Early during WWII, Betty and her Jewish family moved out of Czechoslovakia to Hungary. It was there that Betty (at 13 years old) met Richie. They fell madly in love with one another and vowed to marry one day. But they were separated in the last year of the war and though Betty, her mother, sister, and brother all survived, Betty could not find Richie after the war ended. At the encouragement of her mother, although Betty didn’t love him, she married Otto, who loved her very much. But she never lost her love for Richie and while married decades to Otto (and she had three children with him), she always looked for Richie.

I thought the first half during the war was better. Yes, the Holocaust is awful, but it was amazing that all in Betty’s family survived except for her father, much due to her mother’s encouragement, support, and resilience. I hadn’t read anything about Hungary (and its occupation) during the war until now. I felt really badly for Otto as Betty continually commiserated about losing Richie. Although he was almost never home (always working), which was hard on Betty, especially once the kids came along.

sep 30, 2022, 10:54 pm

53. The War in the Country / Thomas F. Pawlick
4 stars

The author of this book is looking at life in rural areas with a focus on eastern Ontario. More specifically, he is looking at family farms vs factory farms, as well as mining rights vs indigenous land claims and sub- vs surface rights of landowners.

It seems the government is making things more and more difficult for smaller operations. Large corporations not only get subsidies, but smaller operations are hit with regulations they couldn’t possibly afford to meet, and in a lot of cases, regulations that just make no sense for what they are doing.

Some examples include the vegetarian restaurant told they needed to replace their cedar counter with stainless steel, stainless steel being needed for meat… but they don’t serve meat; but they might one day; well we’ll get stainless steel if that happens; nope, too bad, you need to do it now. Or the small butcher shop that doesn’t serve food to eat inside his shop but is suddenly required to install washrooms. These are just the tip of the iceberg. Both these businesses were asked to do much more than this, as their own expense, of course. Growing organic food is much more difficult than it should be, etc.

The author does end the book with lots of suggestions to fix these issues, but the political will is needed to do it and that’s currently not there, with large corporate lobby groups holding the purse strings of many politicians. Urban folks are asked to become educated to help rural folks stand up for these things.

okt 2, 2022, 10:45 pm

54. Paper: An Elegy / Ian Sansom
3 stars

This is a history of paper. Not just paper, including how its made (pretty much the same as it has been for hundreds of years, except now by machines instead of by hand), but it also looks at the histories of various items made with paper: books, games and puzzles, origami, art, and more.

The intro started off really interesting, also taking us through a day without paper. The rest of the book – though it had some interesting tidbits -- just wasn’t quite as good. There was a lot of references to literature and art, and that kind of lost my interest there. Overall, though, I’m rating it “ok”, but I feel like that might be a bit generous.

okt 4, 2022, 10:42 pm

55. Midnight Sun / Stephenie Meyer
3.5 stars

This is, of course, “Twilight” from Edward’s point of view. Edward and his vampire family live in Forks, Washington when Bella arrives to live with her Dad. Edward, who can hear people’s thoughts, is drawn to Bella, as he is unable to hear hers and they fall madly in love.

It’s been a long time since I read (and enjoyed) “Twilight”. This was pretty slow-moving (as was the original, I believe), and I didn’t think this one was as good, but it was interesting from the other point of view. I know some people found Edward’s stalking of Bella creepy, but I didn’t see it that way in the original. It really stood out from Edward’s POV, though, since we could now see how often he really did watch her! I had forgotten much of what had happened in the first book. The book really didn’t pick up much until the baseball game, but things moved quickly after that (this was likely the case in “Twilight”, too). I sure don’t like Rosalie! I listened to the audio and, overall, I’m rating it good.

okt 10, 2022, 9:59 pm

56. Woman at 1,000 Degrees / Hallgrimur Helgason
3.25 stars

80-year old Herra lives in Iceland in a garage by herself with her laptop, and she is waiting to die. She was told 18 years earlier that she had 3 months to live due to cancer… and here she still is. She does expect it will finally happen soon. She is thinking back on her life with a focus on when she was about 10-15 years old or so during WWII. When her father joined the German army to fight for Hitler, she and the rest of her family left for Denmark. The book goes back and forth in time.

There were a few amusing parts, I thought, including Herra calling the local crematorium to make an appointment for her own cremation! Initially I found her current day situation more interesting, but as things progressed during the war, I liked those parts better. She wasn’t a very likable woman, though that wasn’t necessarily the case when she was younger. Although she also wasn’t treated very well by her three sons nor their wives. Overall, I couldn’t decide if I wanted to rate it 3 stars (ok) or 3.5 (good), so going with the in-between.

okt 19, 2022, 11:01 pm

57. Forever Liesl: A Memoir of The Sound of Music / Charmian Carr
3.5 stars

Charmian Carr was the actress who played Liesl in “The Sound of Music”. She was actually 21-years old playing 16. The first half of the book is memories of making the movie, and the second half looks at some of her own life and family, as well as the ongoing friendships she had with the other children from the movie (and more). Before each chapter is a brief reminisce of someone who loved the movie. And there are plenty of photos throughout.

“The Sound of Music” is one of my all-time favourite movies. Every time she mentioned a scene or some dialogue or a song, I was able to easily picture it in my head. So it was fun to learn of so much that happened behind the scenes. Have to admit I knew none of the child actors’ names (until now!). At 21, but playing one of the children, Charmian was sort of between the adult and child actors on the set.

She was primarily very positive with things she said about the people and the making of the movie. But there were a few little things. But I really think she is sincere in how much making the movie meant to her. So I did learn a few things about Christopher Plummer (Chris) and Julie Andrews, as well. There was a chapter near the end that told more of the actual von Trapp family and their real story, since so much of the movie was fictionalized; that was very interesting.

I was tempted to rate this a bit higher, but I’m certain that’s only due to how much I love the movie itself, so I’ve kept it at a “good” rating.

okt 23, 2022, 9:48 pm

58. The Lake House / Marci Nault
3.5 stars

Victoria grew up in a small community in New England where all the families knew each other. She and her friends all thought they’d grow up, get married, and have their kids there (or in nearby Boston, but eventually make their way back again). Victoria’s plans changed, however, and she went to California to become an actress (which she did), and rarely returned. But now, at 70+ years old, she has returned for good. One friend, Molly, is happy to have her home and is welcoming but the others are not impressed.

Heather is a writer of a travel column in one of Boston’s newspapers. Her relationship with her fiancee and agent, Charlie, has soured, however. When Heather decides to leave, she buys a house in Victoria’s old community. But she doesn’t realize she’ll be the only resident under 70 years old! The houses simply passed down the generations of the older people (but the next generations haven’t stayed). And most of these elderly neighbours don’t want someone young living next to them (the noise, the parties!).

I liked this. It didn’t move quickly, but I honestly didn’t really notice that about it until the end. I liked the relationships Heather ended up having with some of her neighbours and how those evolved (as well as the relationship with the grandson of one of the neighbours).

nov 5, 2022, 3:06 pm

59. The Ophelia Cut / John Lescroart
3.5 stars

Brittany is in her early 20s and beautiful. When Rick, whom she recently dated, doesn’t want to let her be, he is abusive and ends up raping her. Rick is murdered soon after. All signs point to Brittany’s father, Moses. Moses’ friend Hardy will be his lawyer.

I liked the bulk of the storyline and it picked up in the second half during the trial, I thought. However, I found all the characters a bit confusing (there were a lot of them!), and they sometimes referred to them by first name, sometimes last name, sometimes a nickname. It was hard to figure out who was who and how they were related to one another in a lot of cases.

There were a couple of other things going on, as well… Moses, Hardy and a group of their friends were hiding something – it sounds like they had done some vigilante justice a while back? This storyline never really amounted to anything, though. Also, there was a former cop/murderer who was in the witness protection program. It was only when I finished the book that I discovered this part of a series (in fact, it’s #14!). So that probably explains the other (unfinished) storylines.

nov 6, 2022, 10:20 pm

60. The Great American Dust Bowl / Don Brown
3.5 stars

This is a nonfiction graphic novel depicting the “Dirty Thirties” – the dust storms that hit mostly Colorado, Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Kansas. It is geared toward a YA audience. It also gives a bit of background leading up to the conditions that helped create the dust storms and the consequences to the people and farmers in the areas affected. In addition, the dust travelled to the eastern coast!

It’s short, but it has some nice (colour) illustrations, some of them coloured in so dark to represent the lack of visibility during the storms. There were even a few things I didn’t know about (or if I’ve read about them (this is likely) I’d forgotten – like the electric charges in the air). There were even a couple of real photographs included at the end, but not only 1 from a 1935 storm, but one from 2011, as well.

nov 13, 2022, 10:35 pm

61. The Secrets Between Us / Thriey Umrigar
3.5 stars

Bhima is no longer working for the family she had been, and is now living in the slum with her granddaughter, Maya. However, with some help, she has managed to send Maya to university, while Bhima herself is now working two jobs (cleaning and cooking) for two other people. She really dislikes the woman at her morning job, but at her afternoon job, when her employer has a friend move in – a friend who has moved back to India from Australia and seems to have forgotten the customs – Bhima is not only treated very well, she is treated more like a friend.

The often disagreeable Parvati has an argument with her nephew and he kicks her out of where she has been living. She finds a room to rent at a brothel, and sells vegetables at a stand during the day to make her daily rent. Circumstances bring the two older ladies, Bhima and Parvati, together and they form a business partnership.

This is a continuation of “The Space Between Us” by the same author. Despite this being a sequel (and although I have), I don’t think you need to have read the first book to read this one. The bits you need to know are told to you in this story (good thing, because I wouldn’t have remembered any of it!). I liked this. I considered upping my rating to 4 but decided to keep it at a “good” rating for me. It’s not fast paced, but it’s a nice story of friendship. With the way it ended, I feel like there is a possibility for another continuation (with a different focus). If another book came out with these characters, I would read it.

nov 22, 2022, 10:25 pm

62. Omaha Beach: D-Day, June 6, 1944 / Joseph Balkoski
3.75 stars

This is a detailed account, much of it using primary sources, of the invasion of Omaha Beach in Normandy on D-Day, June 6, 1944. It was primarily American soldiers who landed here; Canadian and British soldiers landed on other beaches that day.

I actually liked the author’s narration a bit better than the many primary source quotes he used to illustrate (and expand on) the things he was talking about. Partly, that may have been the smaller font of the quotes vs my (getting older) eyes! I tended to sometimes skim over some of those quotes. But the amount of detail and research that went into this is amazing. Very much like Cornelius Ryan’s account of D-Day as a whole (published in 1959, and used in Balkoski’s research, as well).

nov 27, 2022, 9:53 pm

63. The Ha-Ha / Dave King
3.5 stars

Howie was in Vietnam for the war. He was injured and came home unable to talk. He has not been able to since, nor did he re-learn to read and write. His best friend (and former high-school girlfriend), Sylvia, calls on him to take care of her 9-year old son, Ryan, while she is off to rehab. Lucky for Howie, he has three other people living in his house. Laurel lives there without paying rent, but she helps Howie out. Two other rooms are rented out to young men, Harrison and Steve (he calls them Nit and Nat: he doesn’t like them much!).

This was good. There was a lot of “guy” stuff in the book, but with Howie and Ryan as main characters, becoming almost like father and son, one should expect that. It was nice how the household came together to help out with Ryan (though none were used to having a kid around the house!). I didn’t like Sylvia much, but then Howie did some stupid things, too.

dec 1, 2022, 10:39 pm

David Copperfield / Charles Dickens
2 stars

I can’t give much of a summary. It’s pretty much David Copperfield growing up, getting married, etc.

I listened to the audio and most of it was not actually interesting enough to listen to. So, I missed most of it. I found many names caught my attention, though, for some reason. Uraiah Heap (sp? he’s the ‘umble one – I caught that!), Peggarty, Macawber, Agnes, and Dora. Funny, the other thing with names (at least for the main character) is that he seemed to have a few nicknames and I even think I caught them, or some, anyway! So, I seemed to notice when names were mentioned, but didn’t pay enough attention to what actually was happening. I did catch a bit more of what happened at the end. And I did read a wikipedia summary maybe 1/3 of the way through the book so I might have some kind of idea what was going on. Too bad the book itself didn’t engage me enough that I knew what was happening as I listened, though. It’s another of the classics in the “miss” category for me, though I keep trying them!

dec 4, 2022, 11:31 pm

65. Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant? / Roz Chast
4.5 stars

This is a graphic novel telling of the author’s struggle as her parents aged. They didn’t like talking about death or any preparation for it, including any thought of moving someplace to make it easier for them to live – until they really had no other choice. Her parents both lived to their mid-90s and the cost of them living in the “Place” was taking a toll, in addition to her father’s mental issues and her mother’s physical ones.

It is a graphic novel, but not all pages include comic “strips”- some pages just have an illustration for the page, a few even have photographs of when Roz was cleaning out her parent’s house. A couple of pages include poems her mother wrote. She also includes some drawings she did of her mother in the months leading up to and including the day she died.

This was very well done, I thought. She included many thoughts and problems she had that are probably hard to talk about let alone publish in a book. It shows how hard it is to take care of parents as they age, and the personal struggles, especially when one’s relationship was not always great to begin with. Oh, the costs… wow, what a scary thought. What if your parents don’t have enough saved up to pay for the kind of care she was able to provide for her parents (and she had hard time with it)? What if you don’t have enough to help out? What happens when we get that age if we don’t have enough (and in my case, I don’t have kids to help, either)? Very very well done graphic novel.

dec 6, 2022, 10:40 pm

66. The Wife's Tale / Lori Lansens
3.5 stars

Mary is obese and much of her thought is taken up with her weight and food. On their 25th anniversary, her husband “Gooch” (Jimmy Gooch) has left her with no notice. He just didn’t come home. Mary, although she has never or rarely left her small hometown in Ontario, takes it upon herself to follow clues first to Toronto, then to California, to try to find him.

The first half of the book was hard to read with all the moaning about her weight and food, etc. But maybe that is accurate for some people battling obesity? It’s nice to see Mary become somewhat independent (with the help of people in the small town in California she ends up in). The ending was left a little bit open, but I suppose in doing that, that might mean something, too.

dec 9, 2022, 4:02 pm

67. Pandemonium / Lauren Oliver
3.5 stars

This is the 2nd book in a dystopian series where people are given a surgery to turn off any remnant of love; this is called “the cure”. After the first book, Lena has escaped into the wild, but has “lost” her boyfriend Alex (he died) along the way. Meanwhile, back in the “regular” world , there is a teenaged boy with a health issue that has prevented him from getting the cure: Julian. Julian has become a spokesperson for the cure. When Lena is sent to follow Julian, they are both kidnapped.

I liked this and am happy to continue the series. I listened to the audio and it was done well, kept my attention for the most part. It was a bit confusing at first, though, as the narration went back and forth in time between “Then” and “Now”, and with listening to the audio, it’s not easy to back up to see where we were. I knew, based on what was happening what was going on (I wasn’t confused there) and we were in one or the other, but in all honesty, it took me a while to figure out which parts had happened first, as I kept missing if we were “then” or “now”. I liked where this book went, but there is a surprise cliffhanger ending.

dec 21, 2022, 2:41 pm

68. A Cabinet of Wonders / Renee Dodd
3.5 stars

Set primarily in 1927, Dugan is a dwarf who runs a “freak show”, which includes teenaged Siamese twins Molly and Faye, morphodite (hermaphrodite) Alex, giant Sean, Dugan’s “twin” dwarf Mario, “Wolf girl” Saffron, fat lady Beatrice, tattooed man Shadrach(?), and a black gay man (Finch) who travels with them as a photographer. Dugan is worried about profits as motion pictures are starting to become more popular as the others are each musing about what they might do next, away from “carnie” life when they are able to leave. Although the show is a protection of sorts – protection from doctors who want to study and/or sterilize them.

The book was slow-moving but interesting in that it looked at the private lives of those living in this time with various deformities: their personal relationships, and some of the abuses they dealt with. Included was a short afterword by the author.

dec 27, 2022, 2:41 pm

69. Elevator Pitch / Linwood Barclay

dec 27, 2022, 2:41 pm

70. You Take it From Here / Pamela Ribon
3.5 stars

Danielle and Smidge are in their mid-30s and have been best friends for a long time. Smidge stayed in Louisiana, got married, and had a daughter. Danielle went away to California; she also got married, but that ended in divorce. When Danielle comes home to visit, Smidge has an unhappy surprise and (odd) request for her. Possible spoiler (it is mentioned in the blurb, but it comes a bit of the way into the book): Smidge has cancer and she wants Danielle to take over her life after she dies of cancer; that is, she wants Danielle to marry her husband and take care of her daughter.

Wow, I really really didn’t like Smidge and wondered why anyone would be friends with her (or why anyone would marry her). So selfish (and this includes before the cancer). I felt badly for Danielle. I did like Tucker. Despite my intense dislike for Smidge, I still liked the book, as a whole. And no, I didn’t cry at the end – because I didn’t care about Smidge even a little bit and I thought Danielle’s life would be much better with Smidge gone.

dec 28, 2022, 10:07 pm

71. An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth / Chris Hadfield
4 stars

The title of this book makes it sound – in part – like a kind-of self-help book: “ to life on Earth”. But it’s really not. It is primarily a memoir about Chris Hadfield’s life as an astronaut and his three trips into space.

I really liked that it was more about his life and his trips to space (and the huge amount – years! - of preparation for it. Oh, the amount of planning is incredible – particularly focusing on (all) the worst case scenario(s). There were bits of “advice” here and there that can be taken for life in general. I just found the planning and the trips to space so interesting. (I hadn’t realized he’d also done some youtube videos, so I’ve had to take a look – very entertaining!)

dec 29, 2022, 11:37 pm

72. The Swiss Family Robinson / Johann Wyss

This is the story of the family (mom, dad, and four boys) who were shipwrecked on a deserted island and how they managed to survive.

2022 reread (on audio)
3 stars
This was an unintentional reread – I forgot that I read it a few years back. This time, though, I listened to the audio. I actually wish I hadn’t reread my review from the first time around, as I noticed my main complaint right away after reading my review: Dad was a walking encyclopedia! He knew everything about everything. It didn’t seem very believable, either. The variety of animals on the island, plus they never seemed to miss when they were hunting. It was all too easy. Not only that, they wanted to stay on the island (at least at one point)! The audio: although it did seem to hold my interest at the start… it lost me part way through and my interest came in and out. I’m rating it ok this time around.

2014 read (ebook):
3.5 stars
It was entertaining, but not believable. The father knew everything about everything, and pretty much everything went right. Every animal they came across they were able to kill or capture for some kind of use – food, eggs, pets, or something else. Not only that, there was quite an international variety of plants and animals: hyena, ostrich, kangaroo, lion, penguin, walrus, boa, pineapple and much more... Overall, I thought it was still enjoyable, but one has to be able to suspend reality. I did (mostly) like the ending.

dec 30, 2022, 1:53 pm

73. The Wicked Awakening of Anne Merchant / Joanna Wiebe
3.5 stars

In book 2 of the trilogy, Anne is back at school, but she knows more about what is going on around her at this so-called boarding school. Possible book 1 : The students are actually dead and “vivified” (brought back to life via a deal with the parents). And the teachers are demons. . But there’s more that Anne hasn’t learned yet about herself. She has come back to get revenge on the person who is the new headmaster.

I don’t think it was as good as the first one, but overall it was still good. There was a recap, but it was quick and I was still trying to get back into the “world” and was a bit confused. There were also a couple of characters with similar names I kept mixing up. But when we got away from the odd vocabulary and I was able to get more into the story, it got better for me.

jan 3, 10:48 pm

I am continuing to use books that have been 3+ years on the tbr.

jan 3, 10:48 pm

1. Deal Breaker / Harlan Coben
4 stars

Myron Bolitar is a sports agent, and he represents Christian Steele. Christian’s girlfriend disappeared over a year ago and was presumed dead, when Christian receives a phone call supposedly coming from her, so Christian calls Myron for help. It appears that her naked body is also now in an ad in a porn magazine with very low circulation, and this magazine has been sent to Christian and a few others. Myron also used to date Kathy’s sister, Jessica. More recently, Kathy and Jessica’s dad was murdered, but the police have chalked that up to a robbery and not related.

I had forgotten that I’d already read one other book in this series, although this is the first in the series (unusual for me to read out of order). I wasn’t sure I’d like it with all the references to sports, but I still did. And there were a lot of sports references. But the mystery and what happened to Kathy kept me interested. And even the sports negotiations and such were interesting (there was another story thread about another one of Myron’s clients, as well) – or more likely, what was happening around those negotiations was interesting. I liked Jessica and her relationship with Myron; not too sure about Myron’s friend, Win, though – he’s a bit scary! I’m still not convinced this series will be nearly as good as Coben’s standalones, but I will definitely continue this series to see where it goes.

jan 7, 11:22 pm

2. Ivan: the Remarkable True Story of the Shopping Mall Gorilla / Katherine Applegate
4 stars

This is a picture book about Ivan, a gorilla poached as a baby and brought to the U.S. to live, first with a family until he was too big, then he lived for almost three decades in a mall by himself. From there, he was taken to a zoo to live the rest of his life with other gorillas in a more natural habitat.

I loved the YA book “The One and Only Ivan”. This is a really nice children’s story about the same gorilla with such a sad life. There are some really great illustrations. Despite it being so short and succinct (it’s a kid’s book, and no surprise, really), this one still had me crying a couple of times. There are a few pages at the end with a longer textual summary of Ivan’s life and a note from one of the zookeeper’s who took care of him in his last decade of life.

jan 9, 10:51 pm

3. The Boy / Betty Jane Hegerat
4 stars

This book is a combination fiction, memoir, and true crime. The author goes back and forth between telling her fictional story… which (in some ways) mimics the true crime portion of the story as she writes about her research into the crime. The chapters alternate between the fiction and the memoir.

The fictional story is set in the 90s, and is from the POV of a woman, Louise, marrying a man, Jake, who has a 12-year old son, Daniel. Louise is a teacher and knows that Daniel often gets into trouble, so she is concerned about how this will go as she becomes his stepmother. The true crime portion of the story is about a boy (Bobby Cook) in small town Alberta who, in his 20s, was convicted and hanged in 1960 for murdering his family: his father, stepmother, and five younger half-siblings. This was the last execution in Alberta.

It seems kind of an odd mix, but it worked really well for me. I liked that the character Louise would “talk” to the author, usually in between chapters, but occasionally in the memoir chapters, as well, as Louise and the author Betty figured out what the fictional Louise’s story would be and how similar it would be to Bobby Cook’s story. I liked both the fictional story, and I found the true crime portion of the story quite interesting, as well. Might have to look further into Robert Raymond Cook.

jan 14, 10:36 pm

4. Stuffed and Starved / Raj Patel.
3.5 stars

The title of the book comes from the fact that as more and more people are becoming overweight, there is also a larger number of people who are starving. The author has done a lot of research for this book, looking at our increasingly corporate food system, where so much of every step of our food is produced and brought to our plates via businesses in it for the profit only. There is a lot of focus on the farmers (many commit suicide as it’s harder and harder to make a living) around the world. There are chapters on genetically-modified foods, on the supermarket, Mexico, Brazil, corn, soy, and much more.

The author has actually worked fro the WTO (World Trade Organization) and the World Bank, both are mentioned (generally, not in a good way) in this book. There is a lot to take in in this book. Mostly interesting stuff here. He does end with some suggestions to try to make things better, but the sad part is corporations that make a lot of money won’t go for it, and though you’d like to think governments will step up, over and over that doesn’t happen with money from those large corporations funding the politicians.

jan 22, 10:12 pm

5. Sugarhouse / Matthew Batt
3.5 stars

Matthew Batt and his wife Jenae are in Salt Lake City and looking to buy a home. Unfortunately, they can’t afford what they really want, so they end up with a (huge!) fixer-upper. It is only after they are renovating they find out that the house used to be a crackhouse. Oh, and they aren’t particularly handy people, but do the bulk of the work themselves.

Interspersed with their house dilemmas, Matt’s grandmother passes away, so Matt and his mom have to help out Matt’s grandfather, a playboy who really just wants to be with Tonya, the home care nurse who took care of his wife when she was alive.

It maybe doesn’t sound like the more interesting part of the story, but I liked the renovating of the house portions of the story better. I’m actually not quite sure how the two stories fit together, except I suppose that the things that happened with Matt’s family really were happening at the time. There were plenty of humourous bits, maybe more humourous because super-non-handy me could relate. I’m sure they managed to do a heck of a lot more than I ever could have, even with help from friends! Overall, I liked it.

jan 30, 9:47 pm

6. Don't Throw It Out: Recycle, Renew, and Reuse to Make Things Last / Lori Baird
3 stars

The title of the book kind of says it all. It’s more of a reference book to check when you have something you might need to fix or if it’s time to get rid of, you can look up some alternate ways to use those things.

There are lots of suggestions in the book, some of which I already know about or do. Many, though, (especially the fixes, but even some of the maintenance to help things last longer) require someone handier than I. I am not handy at all. That being said, I do plan to hold on to the book so I can check if there is something I might be able to do with something when it’s time to get rid of it. I already try to use most things until they die.

feb 5, 5:24 pm

7. Perfect Match / Jodi Picoult
3.75 stars

Nina is a lawyer, a prosecutor who usually takes on child sexual abuse cases. She is horrified (this happens very early in the book, so not a spoiler) when her 5-year old son, Nathanial, stops talking and she learns that he was molested. She knows how traumatic it is for kids to have to testify to put their molester away and if they are convicted, they aren’t in jail for nearly long enough.

This drew me in right away with the intro/set up, but I didn’t like the ending (I took ¼ star off for the end). I didn’t like many of the things Nina did/didn’t agree with her logic for some of it; I did, for the most part, agree with her husband Caleb and how he saw things. I learned something new about DNA that I found that very interesting. There were a few twists, and I did figure a couple of them out ahead of time (but not all).

Redigerat: feb 6, 10:54 pm

8. Alcatraz Versus the Scrivener's Bones / Brandon Sanderson
2.5 stars

Listened to the audio of this one and really couldn’t tell you the plot of the story. All I know is that Alcatraz (and a cousin(?), Bastille) ended up at the Library of Alexandria, where the curators (skeleton(?) librarians) require the signing over of a soul in order to check out a book. I think they were looking for Alcatraz’s mother (or father or maybe Bastille’s mother?). Not too sure.

Ok, so it’s been a long time since I read the first in the series, but I gave it 4.5 stars! This one is only rated as high as it is for the humourous bits when Alcatraz was talking directly to the reader (not usually to do with the story, itself), and the stuff about the “evil” librarians (I am a librarian, so I did find that very entertaining!). Listening to the audio, though, those were the only parts where I was interested enough to pay attention. I have found that many (most?) adventure does not translate well for me on audio. No idea what the story actually was about. Not sure if I want to continue. I probably should give the next one a chance, but not on audio (let’s hope I remember that!).

feb 15, 10:29 pm

9. Mambo in Chinatown / Jean Kwok
4 stars

Charlie lives in Chinatown in New York City with her father and sister, Lisa. Her mother (formerly a dancer) died when Charlie was younger. Charlie is 22-years old and Lisa is much younger (middle school/junior high?).

Charlie hates her job dishwashing, and has never been good as a receptionist, but she is able to get a new job as a receptionist at a ballroom dance studio. She is still not good at it, but when the studio is very short of teachers, she steps in to find herself a really good teacher (though she is barely a step ahead of the students when it comes to the dancing!).

Meanwhile, Lisa’s health is taking a turn for the worse. They aren’t sure what’s wrong, but their father refuses to have anything to do with Western medicine and will only have Lisa treated by their uncle, who practices Chinese medicine.

I really enjoyed this! I listened to the audio and it (fairly easily) held my interest. I definitely got frustrated with Charlie’s dad. I really liked Ryan, one of Charlie’s students, and Nina, another dance teacher at the studio, who became friends with Charlie. I thought the author did a good job with the ballroom stuff (turns out she has done ballroom professionally), as (though it’s been a number of years), I took lessons off and on for 15 years myself.

feb 16, 10:32 pm

10. Rescued: Saving Animals from Disaster / Allen & Linda Anderson
3.5 stars

This book looks at the volunteers and organizations that went to help the animals left behind when people evacuated New Orleans for Hurricane Katrina in 2005. It also looks at disaster planning for animals (which was pretty much nonexistent at the time), and how that could change going forward.

I had it in my head that this would look at more than just the one disaster, but I guess there was enough for the book with just Katrina and aftermath. It was chaos. It was hard to understand why some people were turned away due to not being “trained” (so some volunteers went “rogue”), but later in the book they explained why that would be the case. And untrained people can help elsewhere (as opposed to going door to door in a boat to pull animals out of the houses). Not surprisingly, the stories of specific people and their pets were the most interesting here. Overall, it was good.

feb 20, 2:56 pm

11. To Hold the Crown / Jean Plaidy.
3.5 stars

The Wars of the Roses is over, with Elizabeth (House of York) having married Henry VII (House of Lancaster) to join the two warring houses for the crown of England. This book starts when Elizabeth is pregnant with her first child (Arthur) and ends with Henry’s death. It follows the births of all their children; the two “pretenders” to the crown pretending to be Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville’s missing princes from the tower – the “rightful” heirs; Katherine of Aragon’s marriage to Arthur and subsequent betrothal to the soon-to-be Henry VIII. Henry VII was always concerned about someone coming along to claim the throne.

It was good, but – especially at first – I found it a bit hard to follow as it followed many different viewpoints of many different characters and transitioned without any indication of a transition! I think it got a bit easier once we were following Henry VIII and his generation, as I know the people and characters better, so I could figure it out. The story moved forward very quickly, as years would pass with only a sentence or two (or nothing, and it’s a few years later).

feb 25, 10:10 pm

12. Ruby Red / Kerstin Gier
4 stars

Gwyneth and Charlotte are cousins, born only 1 day apart. Based on their genes and Charlotte’s date of birth, Charlotte is expected, and has been training all her life, to be the family’s next time traveller. So, it’s a surprise when Gwyneth is suddenly transported to another time!

I really liked this. Although I didn’t initially like Gwyneth’s time travel partner, Gideon, he grew on me. It did bother me some, though, that no one seemed to think they needed to now train Gwyneth on those things Charlotte had been learning. I realize that it would not be nearly as much training, since the time travel is now already happening with Gwyneth, but it sure would have been some help, I would think!. The book also didn’t quite end. I believe it is a trilogy (it is definitely continued), so although I often leave a gap between books in a series, I’d like to try to get to the next one before too much time passes.

feb 26, 2:32 pm

13. Dewey Decimal System of Love / Josephine Carr
3 stars

Ally is a librarian at the Free Library of Philadelphia. When she attends a symphony, she immediately falls in “love” with the conductor, whom she has never met, and not only that, he is married. She manages to get a volunteer position with the orchestra, so is able to see him more often. Meanwhile, his wife comes in to the library doing research to write a book.

Ally fit all kinds of librarian stereotypes, and initially I found it funny (I’m a librarian, too, and I fit some of those same stereotypes), but she just went way over the top. I also wasn’t crazy about the ending (although, I suppose, better than the alternative?). Overall, I’m rating it ok for the few parts I enjoyed.

mar 7, 10:41 pm

14. All Things Wise and Wonderful / James Harriot
3.5 stars

In this book, veterinarian James Herriot is training for the RAF (Royal Air Force) during WWII. So, this one includes stories of that training, alongside stories of treating animals (pets and farm animals) and the lives of some of the humans to whom those animals belonged.

I listened to the audio, and there were times my mind wandered, probably more often during the RAF training anecdotes (though not all of them). The narrator did a very good job with voices and accents. I’m rating it good, but am debating if I should continue on. It looks like there are only two books left, so I likely will.

mar 11, 3:08 pm

15. Garbage Man / Joseph D'Lacey
3.5 stars

There is something going on at the town’s landfill. Something big. And Mason manages to egg things on in a very bad way. (Hard to do a good summary without giving too much away!)

It took a while for this to get going, and in fact, I wasn’t sure where it was headed originally. But it got much better for the last 2/3ish of the book and I was more invested once things really started happening. There were two couples, though, that I kept getting confused. Eventually, I (mostly) figured out the characters, but even toward the end, I often had to stop to figure out who was who, and which couple they were a part of. Once it picked up, it was good.

mar 13, 10:54 pm

16. Talking to Strangers / Malcolm Gladwell
3.75 stars

In this one, Gladwell looks at how we communicate (or not) with people we don’t know. Or really, how well (or not) that communication is. Generally, people assume other people are telling the truth. But what if they aren’t? Drinking changes communication and how we read (or don’t) other people. Police interactions. Spies. Crime and safety. And more. Of course, there are studies that show us some surprising results.

So he actually started off with what was the least interesting to me of all the stories – the spies. But the rest of the stories were of much more interest to me. I listened to the audio and he did it (so he said – I don’t really listen to podcasts) similar to a podcast where he used recordings of the people themselves talking or he used actors to reenact what someone said. Although some of the recordings were sometimes hard to hear, I quite enjoyed it done that way. So an extra ¼ star for the audio.

mar 14, 11:22 pm

17. The Road / Cormac McCarthy
4 stars

A man and a boy are travelling along a road. They are trying to avoid other people, while trying to stay alive. It turns out something has happened and most of the human population has been wiped out. The man and boy are trying to reach the coast, while trying to survive.

This was surprisingly good. It’s an award-winner (usually a bad sign for me), and I didn’t like the other book I’ve read by this author. I found it interesting that neither of the characters had a name. It was slow-moving, and often not much happened (though there were a few things that happened along the way that got the blood pumping!), but I really liked it.

mar 28, 10:21 pm

18. The Courts of Love / Jean Plaidy.
3.5 stars

Eleanor of Aquitaine was next in line to the throne in Aquitaine and married Louis, the next King of France in the 12th century. Louis never wanted to be king (he was second-born and wanted to become a monk), but when his older brother died, Louis was next. He really wasn’t interested in marriage, though, nor creating a heir, to Eleanor’s chagrin. Eleanor had been brought up in a court of “love” with music and dancing and fun and laughter and missed it. And did not enjoy not being close to her husband.

She and Louis did have two daughters, but Eleanor was eventually able to get a divorce and she married Henry, the next King of England. They were madly in love, but Eleanor hadn’t realized (initially) that Henry continued to have affairs after they married, and she was not happy when she discovered this. Despite that, they had a number of children. As they grew apart, Henry eventually imprisoned Eleanor for a number of years. In the end, Eleanor outlived most of her children.

This was good. It was long, but Eleanor lived a long life. I have read one or two books about her, but it’s been a while, and I don’t recall the stories of Thomas a Becket and Richard the Lionheart, which Plaidy included in her book here. (Becket was a friend of Henry’s and Richard was Eleanor and Henry’s son.) They were likely there, but maybe I just didn’t know who they were when I read about them originally, so the stories didn’t “stick” in my memory. Plaidy is very detailed with her history, and that is to be commended, but it doesn’t always make for the most interesting fiction. Even so, overall, I liked it.

apr 10, 4:54 pm

19. The Forgotten Sisters / Shannon Hale
3.5 stars

In this, the 3rd (and final) book in the Princess Academy series, Miri is about to head home to the mountain with her boyfriend Peder, but she is called back to see the King and Queen at the last minute. They have “asked” her to travel to a swampy area in the kingdom where the king’s three girl cousins live; she is requested to be a tutor to train them to become princesses. The King plans to offer one of the three to a neighbouring monarch in order to prevent a war.

I enjoyed this. Of course, the sisters were nothing like princesses and it took a while to convince them to try (though there were extenuating factors, like not having time to do any lessons), so it was somewhat amusing at first, too. There was a section in the middle that slowed down a bit, but when a war started, anyway, it picked up again. I feel like it was a nice wrap-up to the series.

apr 10, 5:26 pm

20. The Secret Wife of King George IV / Diane Haeger
3.5 stars

King George IV (King of England between 1820 an 1830) before becoming king, did not get along with this father at all. Not only that, he fell in love with a Catholic (Maria) and there was no way his father would agree for them to marry. Maria insisted on being married before agreeing to becoming further involved in the relationship, so they married in a Catholic ceremony (that was illegal/not recognized in England). George had hoped his father would not live much longer (but he did), so he would be able to change that law and have Maria recognized as his legal wife.

This is not a time period I have read much (or anything?) about. It was really interesting to learn of this secret relationship/marriage. There was more romance to the story than I’d expected; I added this to my tbr a long time ago, so it’s possible I realized that at the time. But it was still interesting. There were times that the story moved a bit slowly, though. I also can’t say I really liked either main character, but I was still interested to read that this had happened at all.

apr 15, 4:00 pm

21. The Son of a Certain Woman / Wayne Johnston
3 stars

Percy was born with FSS (Famous Someone Syndrome), where his hands, feet, and lips are all oversized; he also has an extremely large wine-red/purple “stain” on his face. He lives in St. John’s, Nfld with his beautiful single mom and her boarder, who also teaches at Percy’s school. A frequent visitor to their house is his mom’s friend, Medina. He also realizes there will never be a girl/woman who will love him or have sex with him; he figures his only hope is his mother. The story follows Percy from about 5 years old to 15.

Ok, as distasteful as that is, the story itself wasn’t bad. Initially, it reminded me of John Irving. It was pretty slow, though. It did pick up for me as I continued on, so I temporarily thought I might rate is just a bit higher, until something at the end of the book brought my rating back down to “ok”. It was apparently set in the 1950s and 60s, but I don’t recall if that was explicitly stated in the book. There was some humour and plenty of criticism of the Catholic Church.

apr 23, 11:57 pm

22. Down the Mysterly River / Bill Willingham
3.75 stars

12-year old Max is a Boy Scout and is in a forest, but he has no idea how he got there. It’s not long before he meets up with a talking badger. Next comes along a talking feral cat, then a talking bear. How very odd! In trying to figure out what is going on here (Max considers himself a bit of a detective), Max and the others learn that they are being chased by people called the “Cutters”. The animals know that the Cutters cut critters into something different that isn’t themselves. The Cutters themselves think they are making the critters better with the cutting they do. In any case, Max and his three new friends need to run from the Cutters. They are making their way down the river to the Wizard’s sanctuary.

I liked this. I often am not a fan of fantasy (although I generally do better with children’s fantasy, as this is) and talking animals, this was cute, and I liked all the characters, including those talking animals. I gave it the extra ¼ star for the twist at the end. Max has mostly solved the mystery of where he came from, etc, but he learns more from the “wizard” and I thought that twist was very clever – I did love the twist!

apr 30, 11:00 pm

23. King's Fool / Margaret Campbell Barnes
3 stars

Will Somers was Henry VIII’s court jester from the time his daughter Mary was around 10 years old. Will remained Henry’s jester through all Henry’s wives until Henry passed away. Initially, Will found work for a local merchant, but when he accompanied that merchant to Court, he was enticed to stay and work as Henry’s jester. Will apparently became quite close with Henry and his family. This book has a fictional romance component to it.

There was a short author’s note at the start that explained that the romance was fictional, though much of the rest of the story is true; I always appreciate that kind of note or I would have wondered. I actually found Will’s life more interesting initially when he worked for the merchant, but then my interest waxed and waned through the rest of it. It seemed like Henry went through his last 5 wives very quickly in this book (and I suppose he really did, but this book seemed to speed that up), but of course that wasn’t the focus of the book, either. Overall, it was ok for me.

maj 6, 10:52 pm

24. Dead Run: The Murder of a Lawman... / Dan Schultz
3.5 stars

In May 1998, a police officer, Dale Claxton, in Colorado near the desert pulled over a truck. Nothing seemed amiss until three men stepped out of the truck – all three had automatic guns. Claxton was shot numerous times and was killed. The three set off into the desert as other police tried to chase, but were gunned down themselves (others were injured, but not one else was killed). The last of the three fugitives was found in 2007; all three had died in the desert, though the other two had been found within a few weeks of the original chase.

This was good. Starting off with the killing of Claxton and the chase got me into the book right away. Some of the investigation wasn’t quite as interesting, but it picked up every time one of the three killers was found. And, I found the biographical info about each of the three interesting, as well. The three men were all identified fairly quickly, but all three also had plenty of experience surviving on the desert.

Because all three were found dead, it is speculation about what happened and why they did what they did, but it seems likely they were on their way to a different big crime, but got interrupted with Claxton pulled them over. The police also put out there, for all three of the gunmen, that they’d each killed themselves, but (according to the author) the evidence doesn’t really point to that.

This is a good book about a crime I hadn’t heard about (though I’m sure there are plenty who llived closer to the area who would remember this). It was unfortunate there were no references included in the book, though.

maj 8, 10:47 pm

25. Beneath the Faceless Mountain / Roberta Rees.
2 stars

This was set in the Crowsnest Pass in Southern Alberta near the British Columbia border. During the early 20th century, there were a few interesting happenings in the area, but none was the focus of the book, though they were mentioned (a rock slide and a couple of coal mine disasters). I think the bulk of the story(ies?) - maybe all? - seemed to happen during WWII.

I initially thought it was short stories as I started reading – there were different characters in each chapter (at first); I also thought there were different time periods, but one of the characters from (what I thought was) one time period appeared in another later on. So, either time travel or I was mistaken on different time periods? Unlikely it was time travel! There were weird random pages/paragraphs (in different font) referring to “you” – none of that made sense to me. I thought this book was odd, and despite being in an area not too far from where I am and somewhere I’ve been, I did not like this. Likely a good reason for that is the writing style.

maj 14, 12:37 am

26. Beautiful Joe / Marshall Saunders
3.5 stars

Beautiful Joe was a dog (apparently a real dog) who was abused by his owner (along with his mother and siblings, who were all killed), but was rescued by some local kids after Joe’s owner cut off his ears and tail. Joe hit the jackpot with his new family, especially soft-hearted Miss Laura who took good care of Joe and all the other animals the family had. When Miss Laura went off to a relative’s farm for a summer, Joe went with her and learned about the farm animals, as well.

The book was told from Beautiful Joe’s point of view. I enjoyed this (mostly), but it did get preachy at times. I completely agree with it all, but even so, it still felt a bit preachy to me. Many of the characters in the story were almost too good to be true, but at the same time, I think the book (originally published in 1893) was trying to teach kids not to be cruel to animals – they have feelings and feel pain, too. Interesting that it is actually a woman who wrote this: Margaret Marshall Saunders.

maj 19, 10:40 pm

27. A Cat Named Darwin / William Jordan
4 stars

The author was not a cat person, but when he came across a stray (at a time when the author was feeling lonely), there seemed to be a connection. He brought the cat he later named Darwin (the author is a biologist) in and gave him food. There was a back and forth between inside and outside, then on or off the bed, etc. Darwin wormed his way into the author’s heart, but it wasn’t long before Darwin was diagnosed with FeLV (feline leukemia). Darwin only lasted another year before he died.

I loved Darwin and enjoyed the parts most that focused on him. The author brought in some philosophy of things he learned from Darwin and, though I’m not usually a fan of philosophy, I actually found this quite interesting. I did disagree with a lot of decisions the author made, especially as Darwin got more and more sick, but I still rated it as high as I did, primarily because of Darwin himself. The book hit close to home, as I have been dealing with a palliative cat for a few years now, myself (he’s now 20 and still mostly doing ok, but it’s tough).

maj 23, 11:34 pm

28. Shadow of the Titanic / Andrew Wilson
4 stars

This book looks not just at the Titanic, but picks out a few of the survivors to follow after the ship sank. Of course, it also backs up to include biographical information on these people from before the Titanic, as well as where they were and what happened with each of them the night the ship sank.

This was a bit of a different look at the story of the Titanic. I quite liked it! Some of the stories were of first class passengers I knew a bit about or at least remember hearing their names (Madeleine Astor, John Jacob Astor’s young, new, pregnant wife; Sir Cosmo Duff Gordon and his wife, Lady Duff Gordon); also J. Bruce Ismay, a White Star official. Many of the stories were people I hadn’t heard about before. Probably the one I’ll remember best is Jack Thayer, 17 years old and was going down with the ship when he jumped, managed to clear the ship, and be rescued. Dorothy Gibson was a silent screen actress on the Titanic who made it out. There were two little boys who were on the ship with their father; he got them in a lifeboat and they never saw him again… turns out the father had kidnapped them from their mother in France!

Ismay, of course, was on trial after the Titanic sunk. The Duff Gordons were, as well, it being alleged that they bribed the rowers of their lifeboat to not go back to see if they could help anyone. Madeleine Astor married and divorced two more times (though remarrying caused her to lose all wealth left to her by John Jacob). A number of people committed suicide (not necessarily right away) and many just wouldn’t talk of the Titanic afterward.

jun 11, 3:57 pm

29. Denali's Howl / Andy Hall
3.5 stars

In 1967, twelve people climbed Alaska’s (also North America’s) highest mountain, Denali (aka Mt. McKinley). The group was actually two groups “stitched” together before the climb, so many didn’t know each other, or didn’t know each other well, nor were really prepared to work (well) together. Only five survived. The author’s father worked for the park service at the time and was involved in the search afterward. This covers what is known of the climb, the aftermath, and speculation about what may have happened to the seven who never made it back.

I listened to the audio and it’s another where I sometimes lost interest. But the portions I paid attention to were interesting. Of course, in the 1960s, the hiking gear was not as advanced, nor was communication, so it was harder to know if there was really something wrong if you didn’t hear from someone via radio when you were supposed to. This book has made me interested to possibly look up some of the other books on the same mountaineering disaster on Denali.

jun 13, 11:25 pm

30. The Second Life of Samuel Tyne / Esi Edugyan
3 stars

In the 1960s, Samuel and his wife Maud live in Calgary, Alberta. They had immigrated from Ghana (or the Gold Coast, as it was called when they lived there when younger, and as they still call it). When Samuel’s uncle (in small town Alberta) dies and leaves his house and land to Samuel, he up and moves his family (they also have twin daughters) to this small town. The twins are 12 or 13-years old and bring their “friend” (really, an acquaintance, as they don’t really have friends), Ama, with them for the summer while her parents are in France.

This was pretty slow-moving, but it was better than I expected. I didn’t like the first book I read by this author (can’t currently recall the title), but I decided to give this a try, anyway. Wow, those twins… something a little (a lot) wrong in their heads. Did not like the twins at all. In fact, none of the characters were particularly likable (oh, Ama’s likable, but that’s about it; felt really bad for her, actually). But the story was ok, better than expected.

jun 16, 11:03 pm

31. The Dog Who Wouldn't Be / Farley Mowat
3.5 stars

In the 1930s, Farley Mowat and his parents moved to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. They wanted a dog. His father wanted a hunting dog, but since that was too expensive, his mother just bought a dog a little boy was selling for cheap door-to-door. They called him Mutt. This book includes stories that mostly focus on Mutt.

Actually my favourite chapter was the one with the two owls (Mowat used those owls in his fictional kids’ story, “Owls in the Family”). The book was more like short stories, but that’s ok. Mutt was a character. A lot of people seem to consider this a children’s book, but I didn’t think it read that way. A boy and his dog, sure. I suppose that would appeal, but it didn’t seem particularly written for kids. I’m rating it good.

jun 19, 11:05 pm

32. Out With It: How Stuttering Helped Me Find My Voice / Katherine Preston
3.5 stars

Katherine has stuttered since she was 7-years old. Her mother tried to get her help when she was younger, but at the time, Katherine just didn’t want to deal confront it. Her family and friends were always supportive, but of course, it was hard when meeting someone new or interacting with people she didn’t know. As she got older, she did try various things to stop the stuttering – to become “fluent”. Nothing lasted – some things might work temporarily, but the stutter always came back. Eventually, Katherine travelled to the US (from England where she grew up) to interview researchers and other stutterers. (Many people prefer the phrase “people who stutter”, but Katherine herself is fine with “stutterer”.)

I thought this was good. I learned a few things: many stutterers have trouble with their names; stuttering is more common among boys/men; most children do grow out of their stutters, but of course not everyone. Katherine was originally planning to write her book as an oral history and focus on the people she interviewed, but there actually ended up not being very much of that in the end; it obviously did turn into her own memoir. She probably could still write that oral history!

jun 25, 4:27 pm

33. Correction Road / Glen Dresser
3 stars

Alberta is a rat-free province (this is true), and to be that way, there are people staffed at the Saskatchewan border to kill them when they are found. It’s 1979 and Hugh is one of those people. Joan, who works at the liquor store, is his girlfriend, though neither seems really interested in the other. In fact, when Joan meets Walt, who works at the museum, she doesn’t act on her interest in him, but it’s there. And it’s mutual.

This is a pretty slow story. Not much to it. Overall, I’m rating it ok, though. I’m not thrilled about rats being poisoned at the border. None of the people were terribly likable or interesting. I was a child in 1979, so some of the 70s references (tv, music, etc) were kind of fun. Also, my grandparents, then parents sold farm equipment, so it was interesting for me to read about the different farm equipment, though this is unlikely to be of interest to many.

jun 25, 10:55 pm

34. Final Assignment / Linwood Barclay
4 stars

Chandler wrote an essay for school that he was suspended for. It was violent and when the story seems to come true, he is, of course, suspected of the crime. Cal, a private investigator, was originally called by Chandler’s mother to help fight the school suspension, but ends up helping solve the crime instead.

This is a short novella as part of Barclay’s “Promise Falls” series and I thought it was really good. I don’t always enjoy short stories, and although (like many other short stories), I would have liked this to be longer (in this case, to draw out the suspense a bit), the mystery was still done really well, though it was much sped up. Barclay continues to be one of my favourite thriller writers.

jul 3, 11:05 pm

35. The Lying Game / Ruth Ware
3.75 stars

Isa had four close friends when she went to boarding school when she was 15 years old. They played a “game” where they lied to everyone else, but not to each other (there were rules). They had a code “I need you” that they would all come if one of them needed the others. 17 years later, one of the four friends, Kate, texts them all “I need you”, so they drop everything and head back to the small town where their boarding school was and where Kate still lives to find out what’s going on. Isa is a lawyer, now married, and has a baby (whom she has to bring with), Fatima is a doctor, Thea works at a casino.

None of the characters was particularly likable, especially Thea and Kate. I wasn’t terribly impressed with Isa and Fatima, either, though Fatima seemed the nicest of them all. The first half was a bit slow, and there were time shifts back to when they were younger (via Isa’s memories), but it picked up in the second half. I felt badly for Isa’s husband and completely sympathized with him. I did want to give the book 4 stars for a while, but there were a few things at the end that I either didn’t like or still confused me a bit. I definitely did not this as much as the others by her that I’ve read.

jul 4, 4:03 pm

36. The Big Tiny / Dee Williams
3.5 stars

When the author, in her 40s, was diagnosed with a heart condition, she decided she wanted to downsize – considerably! She not only wanted to live in a tiny home, she wanted to build it herself. This is memoir about this journey.

I love tiny homes! Being the pack rat that I am, however (mostly for sentimental reasons), I could never see myself living in one. Dee’s home (although I don’t believe this is the case with most) also didn’t have plumbing and it had very little electricity (powered by solar panels). Because of this, she was unable to be completely independent, and lived in the backyard of a friend. Dee did help her friend (who had her own health issues) out quite a bit, as well. I felt like she was sort of a part-time roommate.

And yes, there was, eventually, a complaint where she needed to figure out a way here the city would allow her to continue to live in her structure in a back yard. She was in a town(?)/city(?) in the Pacific Northwest: in Oregon, I think. I’m not sure where my city is currently at with allowing (or not) tiny homes, but I hope it will happen if it hasn’t already. I listened to the audio and I did enjoy listening to Dee’s journey.

jul 9, 3:34 pm

37. Stuffocation: Why We've Had Enough of Stuff... / James Wallman
3.5 stars

The author is a “trend forecaster” and argues in this book that people have become too materialistic (and this makes them/us unhappy for the most part). He argues that people are likely to move towards experiences rather than material items for happiness.

This was interesting. I think that I am already at a “medium chill” stage (pretty much happy with the status quo), and some people are like that, but it’s not something that the author feels will really take off with most people. The author initially talks about how Western society became so materialistic, then describes different ways of changing this and whether or not these ways will take off (including the medium chill), then talks more about experientialism, as he feels this is the most likely that people will move to.

jul 13, 9:51 pm

38. The Cats of Tanglewood Forest / Charles de Lint
3.5 stars

Lillian is 12-years old and lives near a forest with her aunt. When she is in the forest looking for fairies, she is bitten by a snake, and in order to save her, some of the cats she has been feeding help by magically turning her into a cat. And now, Lillian can talk to the cats and the other animals in the forest. But her aunt doesn’t recognize her and she can’t explain what happened because her aunt only hears meowing. What to do!?

I enjoyed this! It is an expansion of de Lint’s “A Circle of Cats” (which I did read a long time ago, but don’t recall). There are some nice illustrations throughout.

jul 16, 3:18 pm

39. The Romanov Bride / Robert Alexander
2.5 stars

This book follows two main characters: Ella, the sister of Alexandra (the last Tsarina of Russia); Ella was married to another high-ranking Russian royal; and Pavel, a peasant who becomes a revolutionary. Pavel’s wife is killed early in the revolution, and he becomes involved enough to help take the life of Ella’s husband.

I might not have that exactly right. I listened to the audio and missed much of it. It just didn’t hold my interest most of the time. I did appreciate two different people doing each character. I also liked the person narrating Pavel has a Russian accent. I don’t think I knew anything about Ella before. I did find it interesting that she later created a nunnery. I shouldn’t have been surprised at the end, but I was.

jul 23, 10:24 pm

40. The Wild Trees / Richard Preston
4 stars

The author starts by looking at the lives of three people in the 1980s. In 1987, Steve was a university student when he climbed his first really tall tree (can’t recall if it was a redwood in California or a Douglas fir in Oregon); also 1987, Michael was a rich kid in college, but not really interested in attending classes… he also discovered the really tall trees; and Marie (early 80s) in Ontario, who lost her mother at a young age and enjoyed rock climbing. Eventually, the three would cross paths as they (formally or informally) studied the tallest trees in the world, mostly those California redwoods and Oregon Douglas firs.

I really liked this. It’s a mix of biographies of each of the main people, as well as information about the trees and forests and – until the late 80s – no one had been up to the tallest reaches of these trees. There are ecosystems that live high up in the trees, and it’s tricky to know how to safely (as much as possible, anyway) climb the trees. It was interesting that the author himself did learn to do it and joined the scientists on their adventures in the trees. He even went climbing with his kids. I really liked this – all parts of the book: I like biographies, and I like (popular) science, so I enjoyed all of it.

jul 25, 10:48 pm

41. The One Man / Andrew Gross
3.5 stars

The American military recruits a Jewish Polish man, Nathan Blum, who managed to get out of Europe before the rest of his family was rounded up to Auschwitz. He already works for the U.S. military and they convince him to go to Auschwitz with a detailed plan to help get someone out! But he only has 72 hours.

Meanwhile in the camp, Professor Mendl is an expert in physics and recruits a young 17-year old, Leo, to memorize a bunch of his formulas. The professor is pretty sure he won’t make it out, but is hoping Leo might one day. This info he is having Leo memorize is very important, though he won’t tell Leo why it’s so important. In his “spare” time, Leo plays chess with one of the camp’s SS officer’s wives.

This was good. It may also be a “victim” of me being fully saturated with WWII books (as I know many others are, as well). I listened to the audio and I had no issues with it. In all honesty, I can’t imagine anyone would agree to do that rescue, as they knew enough about Auschwitz by then. Oh, but the test they had Nathan do ahead of time to “prove” he could? No. Just no. If they wanted him to go so badly, I think he could/should have called them on it and not done it. He was already trained by then. I can’t imagine they’d find anyone else to do it, so let them call it off; I can’t imagine Nathan wanted to go in so badly…

jul 29, 4:28 pm

42. Weather for Dummies / John D. Cox
3.5 stars

The title (and if you know the series) pretty much tells you about this one. It explains weather in a simplified way. From the front of the book: “Explore how weather is forecast; Get a close-up look at clouds, storms, and seasons; Understand how climate affects weather”.

I thought it was good, but it didn’t have as much humour as the other “For Dummies” books I’ve read; I usually really like the humour, so I missed that. In all honesty, even though it was simplified, I still had trouble fully understanding some of the explanations and had to reread a few paragraphs more than once. Even so, I definitely learned things. Did you know they always take temperature readings in the shade? Meteorology is harder than rocket science (with the latter often being held up as something you need to be super-smart to do), because “rocket scientists” study space outside Earth’s atmostphere, which is a lot calmer and doesn’t constantly change like our atmosphere and weather does closer to the ground. Those are just a couple of things that stuck in my head.

There was some repetition but that’s because it is meant to be a reference, so you don’t need to read it front to back; the repetition didn’t bother me, but I wanted to mention it for others. There is (in the 2nd edition that I have) a section of colour photos in the middle. Every so often, I’ve thought it would be so interesting to be a meteorologist; LOL! There is no way when I have a hard time understanding the simplified explanations! (As interesting as it might actually be.)

aug 4, 11:54 pm

43. 13 Ways to Kill Your Community / Doug Griffiths, Kelly Clemmer
3.5 stars

The author (Griffiths) of this book is a politician (and former teacher) representing a rural riding (at least he was when he wrote the book). He expanded a speech he often does to help rural communities revitalize their towns. It’s a bit of a reverse psychology thing similar to what he once used with his high school students, so the “ways to kill your community” is obviously not what he’s really getting at, but the opposite. He uses examples of things that people do that do prevent communities from growing.

The topic is not really my interest (though I grew up in a small town, so it was somewhat interesting from that perspective), but I think for what it does/recommends/suggests, it is a good book. I think it’s a worthwhile read, particularly for people who live in rural areas, whether they are “leaders” in those communities, or business owners, or just the people who live there (assuming they do not want their communities to die).

Redigerat: aug 7, 10:51 pm

44. Memories of a Anne Frank / Alison Leslie Gold
3.5 stars

Hannah Goslar was Anne Frank’s best friend before the Holocaust. This book includes some of her memories of Anne, in addition to her own memories of that time. She and her family remained in Amsterdam (not in hiding) much longer than Anne, but her family also ended up in a couple of concentration camps. In fact, Hannah and Anne did see each other (through a barbed wire fence) at Bergen-Belsen. The book was a result of the author’s interviews with Hannah.

It’s written quite simply and it’s short, so it is a fast read; I believe it is meant as YA. There were even some photographs of Hannah’s (that she managed to hold on to through and after the war) that included Hannah, her family, and photos with Anne. There wasn’t as much about Anne, specifically as I’d hoped, but that’s ok. What was there was interesting, as well as learning about Hannah and her family’s experiences.

aug 9, 11:16 pm

45. Auggie & Me / R. J. Palacio
4 stars

This is three short stories, each from a different child’s POV. “Wonder”, of course, is the main book from Auggie’s perspective, and these are three other kids who came into contact with Auggie in some way. Two of these children (Charlotte and Julian) are in the 5th grade when Auggie Pullman comes to their school. Auggie has a facial deformity, and it’s extreme.

Chris was a friend of Auggie’s since they were babies, but moved away a few years before the events of Auggie’s current story. But they did stay in touch, so Chris’s story follows him on a bad day at school, in addition to flashing back to memories of Auggie, then Auggie is brought in to Chris’s current day.

Charlotte and Julian (and one other kid, Jack) are asked to welcome Auggie to the school. Charlotte is nice enough to Auggie, but doesn’t consider him a friend, and Julian just bullies Auggie (and turns others at the school against him).

I’ve read “The Julian Chapter” before but it’s been a long time, so I decided to reread it, in addition to the other two. I liked it the least of the three, likely because Julian (despite this one being from his POV) is a little s**t (though I did like his grandmother’s story). I’m giving it (this time around) 3.5 stars (good). On checking back, I am in agreement with the first time I read this.

The other two, I thought were really good. I really enjoyed Chris’s story and it probably had the most of Auggie in it. I also really liked Charlotte’s story, but it had the least of Auggie. It followed her as her best friend ditched her to hang out with the popular girls; Charlotte herself then got a part in a big dance performance at school with two other girls.

aug 11, 9:59 pm

46. Milk Glass Moon / Adriana Trigiani
3 stars

This is the third book in the “Big Stone Gap” trilogy. Ave Maria’s daughter Etta is now a teenager (or almost? Anyway, by the end of the book, she’s 18). I don’t know that there’s really a plot. It’s their relationship as Etta grows up, and Etta making stupid teenage mistakes/decisions. There are a couple of trips to New York (for Ave Maria) and to Italy (for the entire family (I think)). And there are some good secondary characters.

So, without an actual plot, and it moved pretty slow… and teenage girls. It was ok, can’t say much more than that for me. I loved Ave Maria’s best friend (at first), but she also made a stupid decision that I was quite disgusted with later (you’d think she was the teenager!). I think I’m very much like Ave Maria. I’m not a parent, but it wouldn’t surprise me if I had been, that I’d be similar to her.

I listened to the audio, read by the author herself. She has a slightly monotone voice, but also has a Southern accent (I always thought she’d have an Italian accent!). It did keep my interest, for the most part, it just wasn’t a terribly exciting book. And oops, I thought it was a trilogy, but it appears there is a 4th book. I think I am unlikely to pick it up.

aug 13, 10:52 pm

47. Twopence to Cross the Mersey / Helen Forrester
4 stars

This is the author’s memoir of when she was a child. She was the oldest of seven siblings, and at 12(?) years old, her well-off parents declared bankruptcy. It was the 1930s, and they moved to Liverpool, where Helen’s father had grown up, but there was a crazy amount of unemployment there. The family was very poor for a long time and Helen (though she should have been in school until 14) was kept home to look after the youngest kids while her mother first got over an illness, then went to work herself.

Oh, how frustrating were those parents, especially Helen’s mother! How irresponsible of them! They were renting pretty furniture for the living room, while their kids (and themselves) didn’t have enough to eat. And they didn’t have proper beds, clothes, or blankets, either. Helen, though, seemed to be the worst off for food. Even her mother got more (though not always) because she needed to be presentable for work; this is also why the others got more – they needed to be presentable (as much as possible, anyway) for school.

When Helen was finally able to get a job (though that took a lot of fighting on her part, as her parents (particularly her mother) still wanted her to stay home with the younger kids), and she eventually managed to hold on to a little bit of money to buy herself some new clothes (well, new to her), her mother would often either “borrow” them and wear them out herself, or she would just pawn them, often to pay the people coming to collect on what they were owed.

I’ll add that this actually included a second part to the memoir called “Liverpool Miss”. It did end a bit abruptly, though with an epilogue by Helen’s son to explain where Helen eventually ended up (in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada) and how she got there. But with regard to the abrupt ending to Helen’s part of the story, it does seem there is a continuation. I will be putting it on my tb

aug 20, 3:38 pm

48. The Animal Dialogues / Craig Childs
3 stars

The author has spent a lot of time in nature. This book brings together essays he has written on various animals/wildlife he has come into contact with in his travels, along with extra information about those animals.

I listened to the audio, and it was ok. Similar to short stories, I found some more interesting than others, but it was easier than I’d have liked to become distracted when listening. Some of the ones I was able to keep a bit more focus on: mosquito (and maybe not one one would have thought an essay to be written on!), squid, wasp, coyote, raven, pronghorn, bighorn sheep, praying mantis. There were quite a few chapters on different birds, but I did lose focus on some of those (though I love birds!). I was definitely less interested in fish and his exploits fly-fishing.

sep 4, 10:03 pm

49. John Hughes: A Life in Film / Kirk Honeycutt
3.5 stars

The book looks more at John Hughes’ movies (with a longer focus on the most popular ones in the 80s and 90s) than at his life, but there are bits and pieces of his life thrown in. For those who don’t know he either directed, produced, and/or screenwrote “The Breakfast Club”, “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”, “Pretty in Pink”, “Home Alone”, among many other movies of the time.

It’s about the size of a coffee table book, and there are lots of nice photos included, mostly of the movies being discussed, but of course also of John Hughes himself, only a few with his wife and kids, though he was apparently a big family man.

I was a teenager in the 80s, so the first half or so of the book was more interesting to me, as that was the focus on the 80s teen movies. It was interesting to read about his relationships with the actors and how he made the films. He got along very well with the younger actors, but he was not great at communications with other producers, directors, etc, who he had working on his films (firing many via a third party with no explanation!). He had a particularly close relationship with John Candy, so that was interesting to read about. (Movies Hughes did that starred John Candy included “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles”, “Uncle Buck”, “The Great Outdoors”.)

sep 6, 10:12 pm

50. The Big Book of Irony / Jon Winokur
2 stars

Nonfiction book that looks at irony. There is a little bit of explanation, but mostly quotations as examples.

I still don’t understand. By definition, it still sounds like sarcasm to me. Examples didn’t help. In addition, there are about 50,000 different types of irony, apparently. (OK, slight exaggeration.) A few examples were amusing (Billy Joel’s 11-year old daughter asking him not to sing – is this ironic?), but still didn’t help me understand. It started with explanations of the different types of irony, then a history of irony (all with examples). There were various examples of authors using irony, irony in pop culture (Alanis Morissette’s song, of course, mentioned more than once that those things aren’t ironic; The Simpsons, and other examples). At least it was fast to read. I liked that there were a number of Canadian examples. But I still don’t “get” it. Honestly, with all the various different types of irony, I’m probably more confused than ever.

sep 16, 4:35 pm

51. The Last Tudor / Philippa Gregory
4 stars

This is a fictional account of the lives of the three Grey sisters, the granddaughters of Mary Tudor (Henry VIII’s youngest sister). The eldest, Jane (at only 15-years old), became queen for only 9 days after Henry’s son, Edward died. She was later beheaded after Mary I (Henry’s oldest daughter) became queen. Katherine later secretly married for love, and both she and her husband were imprisoned for the rest of Katherine’s life, by Elizabeth I. The youngest, Mary, who had a curve in her spine that kept her under 4’ (?) tall, also secretly married for love, and she and her husband were also imprisoned when found out.

I have read quite a bit about Jane, and only one or two other books about Katherine and Mary, but I just didn’t recall very much about Katherine and Mary, so I was kept interested. With regards to Elizabeth I, this book sure looked at a different side to her, where she was so very worried about being outsted by others in her family to take over the throne. Katherine and Mary were next in line since Elizabeth had no children (alongside Mary of Scots, granddaughter to Margaret Tudor, Henry VIII’s oldest sister, Margaret, but she was Catholic). I listened to the audio and had no problem with it.

sep 17, 3:37 pm

52. Burning Bright / Tracy Chevalier
3.5 stars

When Masie and Jem’s (both teenagers) family moves from the country to London in 1792, they are fairly unprepared for big city life. They end up living next door to a man, Philip Astley (and his son), who run a circus, and another neighbour is poet and printer (publisher), William Blake. A fast friend (especially to Jem) comes in outgoing neighbour, Maggie. This is during the time of the Revolution in France, which does have an effect on the people in London.

This was another slow moving book, but overall it was good. It took a bit to learn the characters, especially with Maggie and Maisie – I think I had to sometimes stop and think for a minute every time one or the other was newly introduced into a scene. The story is mostly from Jem and Maggie’s points of view. Apparently Philip Astley was also a real person and created the first circus.

sep 23, 10:40 pm

53. The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend / Katarina Bivald
3 stars

Sara is from Sweden and has been writing letters to Amy in Broken Wheel Iowa for a while now. They share a love of books and reading. When Sara decides to visit Amy, she arrives to find that Amy has passed away! But the townspeople in this small town know all about Sara coming to visit and are very welcoming to this (their only) tourist! They invite her to stay and won’t even let her pay for anything. It gets to a point where Sara is bored and decides to open a bookstore (which is not allowed on her visa, but she is not being paid, either; she just wants something to do).

I listened to the audio and this was ok. Pretty slow moving and I did lose focus at points so didn’t fully follow some of the townspeople’s activities and even missed who some of the people were. The book references were fun, and it’s a cute story.

sep 25, 10:53 pm

54. All Things Slip Away / Kathryn Meyer Griffith
4 stars

Artist and widow Abby has been living on the town of Spookie for a year or two now (?). She is good friends with retired detective, Frank. When a local girl who works at the grocery store disappears, the town is on edge. When a little mud clay doll appears, Frank knows it’s a serial killer, whom he thought he’d killed 10 years earlier in Chicago, back to kidnap and murder again. This time in Frank’s small town.

I really liked this. There were parts from the killer’s POV, and honestly, most of the time when that’s included in a book, I don’t find those parts interesting, but that was not the case with this book. I was also engaged in those parts. The book takes place throughout the Fall including Halloween and up to Christmas, so it felt like a “nice” (well, as nice as serial killer mysteries go!) Fall read. Have to admit, though, there was more than once where I said to myself – call the police! Don’t do these things yourself (and that includes “talking to” Frank – he’s not a cop, anymore!). This was the 2nd book in a series, but to be honest, I remember next to nothing of the first book, so I would say you don’t need to read the first one first.

okt 7, 4:47 pm

55. Invisible Ellen / Shari Shattuck
3 stars

Ellen, who grew up in the foster system and group homes, has always felt invisible. She works nights at Costco and doesn’t have any friends. When a blind woman on her bus is attacked, Ellen intervenes to help out, and the blind woman (Temerity) and Ellen become fast friends. In fact, they start (mostly at Temerity’s urging) getting themselves involved in various neighbours’ and coworkers’ lives, including the single pregnant neighbour, the neighbour who has been shot, and a coworker who is being sexually harassed by the boss.

I listened to the audio, and though it started off well, I tended to lose interest as we went along. There was a lot going on, and I had to wonder about the two of them sticking their noses into everyone’s business. Overall, I’m rating it ok for me.

okt 18, 10:58 pm

56. The Colony: the Harrowing True Story of the Exiles of Molokai / John Tayman
3.5 stars

Hawaii held a “leper colony” for over 100 years. For a long time, people with leprosy were thought to be very contagious, so from the mid 1800s in Hawaii, they were separated out from the rest of the general public and sent to live in Molokai with other people with the same disease (now called Hansen’s disease). The place was run by a board, with a superintendent on site, but for the first while (over years and a few different superintendents), it was not run well. People didn’t have proper shelter and not enough food. Some people lived the majority of their lives there, and when it finally came time to shut the place down, there were many who didn’t want to leave – where would they go? Would they even be able to support themselves and how would other people treat them?

I found some parts more interesting than others. Some of the biographical info on some of the people who ran the place was not nearly as interesting, I thought, as the patients who were there and the details about their lives (before and) there. The book was quite detailed, and I sometimes did find it plodding. The font was small and it did take a long time to read. Overall, though, I am rating it “good”.

okt 18, 11:21 pm

57. Missing You / Harlan Coben
4 stars

Kat is a police officer. 18 years earlier, not only was her (also police officer) father murdered, her fiance, Jeff, dumped her and she hasn’t seen him since. But she is still in love with him. Imagine her surprise when a friend insists on putting her on a dating site and there is Jeff! She is cryptic when she sends a message and the reply makes it seem like he has no idea who she is.

Meanwhile, a teenaged (?) boy comes to Kat; he thinks his mother is missing, and it’s suspicious. Even though his mother told him she was meeting a man she was dating. The other police Brandon had gone to didn’t believe him, so why is he coming to Kat and why does he think she’ll believe him?

There were a lot of different storylines happening in this book, but I found them all interesting. They did all come together at the end. There were times when we followed the POV of “bad guys” and I often find those parts in many books boring, or at least not nearly as interesting as the rest, but that wasn’t the case with this one. Not sure why that was. Maybe the dog helped! :-)

okt 24, 10:41 pm

58. A Book in Every Hand: Public Libraries in Saskatchewan / Don Kerr
3.5 stars

This is a history of public libraries in Saskatchewan, with a focus on the regional library system that helped bring books and libraries to rural areas. Saskatchewan once had one of the worst library systems in the country, but it made real efforts to bring it up to one of the best (according to the author and the stats he interpreted).

It doesn’t sound like a super-exciting read, and probably for a lot of people, it may not be. It is probably more of interest to librarians and/or people from Saskatchewan who use or once used their public/regional libraries. I am both a librarian and I grew up in rural Saskatchewan and used our local branch of the Chinook Regional Library. I did find it interesting (mostly) to read about how the different regional systems were formed, the politics, etc. There were a lot of stats and economics included, as well, which all sounds not overly exciting, but it’s written in an accessible way. I did recognize a couple of names, even. Overall, I’m rating this good, but it’s likely to appeal to a pretty specialized audience.

nov 3, 10:47 pm

59. A Time for Mercy / John Grisham
4.5 stars

When Josee’s boyfriend comes home drunk – again – she is beaten unconscious. Her two teenage kids are locked in one of their bedrooms hiding, but when they hear Stuart (the boyfriend) clomp off to his bedroom and they can’t hear their mother, they are afraid she is dead. When they go down to check, 16-year old Drew turns around to find Stuart passed out on his bed… with his gun beside him. 14-year old Kiera, downstairs with her mother, hears the shot. When the police come, Drew is arrested. In Mississippi, murdering a cop guarantees a capital (death penalty) trial. Defense lawyer Jake Brigance is handed the case.

Another great book by Grisham. I really like Jake and the story was fantastic. Not a short book (are any of Grisham’s short?), but I wanted to keep reading to see what surprises might happen next. Black woman Portia is working for Jake and planning to head to law school; she’s another secondary character I really like. I do hope the series continues.

nov 4, 4:25 pm

60. The Porcupine Year / Louise Erdrich
3 stars

A continuation of two other books to start this series, also a children’s book, set in the mid-1800s, focusing on a young Anishinaabe/Ojibwe girl, Omakayas (Little Frog). This follows another year in her life. Initially she and her younger brother get caught up in some rapids in their canoe and are not sure where they’ve ended up. They do find their way back to their family (who has found some beads belonging to Omakayas and fear the two have died!), along with a pet baby porcupine! Other happenings include coming across a wildfire (as they travel toward more family living elsewhere) and “adopting” two white children. Later on the group is ambushed and robbed, leaving them to struggle to survive.

I didn’t like this one as much as the first two, though that little porcupine was cute! I hate that had to leave the little guy behind at one point while he slept. *sniff *sniff.. I’m not sure why this one didn’t hold my interest as well as the first two in the series, but I did lose focus a few times. (Note: I was not listening to an audio, so can’t blame it on that.) I will continue the series, however.

nov 4, 10:28 pm

61. Fables: Werewolves of the Heartland / Bill Willingham
3.5 stars

Bigby (the Big Bad Wolf) has travelled to a small town in Iowa (Story City) to investigate whether or not Fabletown might relocate nearby. He is surprised by what he discovers there – it’s a town of werewolves! Not only that, the two people who head the town are people from Bigby’s past during WWII. Bigby is known (and revered) amongst all of Story City’s residents. But there is dissent within, and Bigby will get caught up in the “disagreements”.

For those who don’t know, this is a spin-off of the graphic novel Fables series. As with the rest of the series, the colour illustrations are very well done. I have not always been all that interested in Bigby as a character, but I liked this story. It’s been a while since I’ve read any of the Fables series, and it was fun to read another.

nov 6, 11:50 pm

62. When Books Went to War / Molly Guptill Manning
3 stars

When the Americans joined WWII, someone had an idea to help with the soldiers’ mental health and morale: give them books to take their mind off things and give them something to do when not fighting. Librarians organized and people donated to the tune of 10 million books! Later on, it was decided that publishers should be creating softcover books (until this time, the vast majority of publishers created hardcover books), so the books would be both smaller and lighter for soldiers to carry with them.

As I read this I wondered if something similar was done for Canadian soldiers, too, but it sounds like this might have been an American thing. Canadians weren’t mentioned, but it seems that the British soldiers were quite jealous of the books the American soldiers had access to. Unfortunately, this book didn’t always hold my interest. There were chapters on politics, and censorship, but I was most interested in the soldiers themselves. There was some description of the fighting and such, but the author also included comments on what the soldiers thought of the books that were sent (hint: for the most part, they loved it!). The last chapter also talked about how many soldiers became readers who hadn’t been before the war. This chapter also talked about how to help the soldiers (with jobs or education) when they came home. Overall, though, due to me losing interest more than I would have liked, I’m rating it “ok”.

nov 14, 10:46 pm

63. Libriomancer / Jim C. Hines
3.75 stars

Isaac is a librarian (a cataloguer), and is horrified when a few vampires come into his library and destroy it (and try to destroy him)! Isaac was also once a libriomancer and a Porter. He was banned from using magic a couple of years back, though, by the secret society of Porters. As a libriomancer, he is able to reach into books and pull things out to use in this world.

It seems that vampires have been hunting down Porters and are trying to start a war (or something) with them. But who is controlling them and why is this happening? Can Isaac help find out what’s going on (with the help of Lena, who herself has come out of a book)?

I enjoyed this. I’m not always a fantasy fan, but as a librarian (and cataloguer), I quite enjoyed that part of the book, and the fact that Isaac (and other libriomancers) was/are able to pull things out of books. That’s pretty cool. I really liked Isaac’s pet fire spider (pulled from a book, of course). I was also a bit amused by the bibliography at the end, which included made up titles in the book. I’d have given it 3.5 stars (good), but wanted to give the extra ¼ star for the librarian who loves to research!

nov 18, 11:24 pm

64. The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents / Terry Pratchett
3 stars

Maurice is a talking cat and has come upon a group of intelligent talking rats. He has vowed not to eat any rat that can talk. They end up working together as they move to a town with the intent of… ok, I’m not exactly sure what their end goal was – money? They were conning people, or planning to. There are two kids who discover them and decide to help when they discover the local rat-catchers were not only catching rats, but behind other bad things, as well.

This was ok. It’s a terrible summary, but there it is. Not as humourous as I remember of the other (few) books I’ve read by Pratchett. I hate footnotes, though, and even more so in fiction, but Pratchett uses them. Luckily, there were not many in this book.

Redigerat: nov 27, 10:43 pm

65. Paper and Fire / Rachel Caine
2 stars

Can’t really give a summary, as I skimmed this book. Something about the Library of Alexandria, I think. And automata (is the plural not automatons?). Shouldn’t have bothered reading it at all. I vaguely recall not being excited about the first book, so I had to check my review. Sounds like I didn’t like the story (may not have followed that story, either), but apparently I liked the characters so decided to try the next one. Shouldn’t have bothered. Nothing interested me in this.

nov 27, 11:01 pm

66. Carve the Mark / Veronica Roth
2.5 stars

I listened to the audio so spellings of names may be off: Akos and Cyra (Sirah, or likely any other number of spellings) are the main characters. They are in space, not sure if they live on different planets, maybe? They spend some time on a spaceship. Cyra’s world is quite violent, but Akos’ isn’t. Somehow they meet. Cyra and her brother are not getting along (can’t recall his name, but starts with an R); he seems to be a king or some kind of leader of his world.

This one got my interest (a little bit) about half way through, but even so, it’s fantasy, so names, places, hard to understand or remember. I don’t like trying to learn different fantastical worlds (it takes way too long to get to the story as one tries to puzzle out all those weird names). Oh, yeah, I hated that they referred to ages by various numbers of “seasons” – when I hear “season”, I think four seasons in a year, so divide that number by 4 and you’ve got years (but then, maybe this isn’t the case on the planets these kids live on). I don’t think that’s what the author meant (four seasons in a year), but it bothered me. The book did get the extra ½ star for catching my attention at least through some/part/more of the second half.

nov 28, 10:31 pm

67. Kids on a Case: Hunting Black Dragon / Tony Peters
3 stars

This is book 2 in the “Kids on a Case” series. When Daniel comes to Tyler, the “ringleader” of the group of kids (around 13 years old?) who once solved a kidnapping case, looking for help, Tyler can’t say no to his friend. Daniel’s dad has been kidnapped and Daniel is scared to go to the police because he and his mom were threatened not to. However, Tyler was warned last time that he should bring anything to the police that he knows about, so he and his group of kid sleuths do just that. The police, after getting permission from the kids’ parents (supposedly), have Tyler and his friends help them with this case. They know it’s the dangerous gang, the Black Dragons, behind the kidnapping.

It was ok. Although Tyler is the “I” in the story, much of it follows other characters, as well. I might have enjoyed it a bit more if I had had it in a better format (pdf can be read on a Kobo, but it’s awkward). Obviously not even close to realistic, though.

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