Saturday, September 26, 2015

Wild by Cheryl Strayed

This book is a must read. Period.

I don't know if I can really do it justice by reviewing it but I will do my best and try.

This book first came on my radar before I made my own bookstagram account on Instagram. It was through random people I follow on my personal Instagram that I heard about it. They all said it was special and important to read. At first, I wasn't really interested because I am a mystery lover at heart and this a true story. For a little while I went through a faze of wanting to read books that are inspirational and life changing so I ended up picking this up.

Right from the start this book had me in tears. There were moments at the beginning I had to put it down and walk away for a while. It wasn't because I didn't like it, but just that it was emotional and made you feel things.

This is the story about a woman who decides to hike the Pacific Crest Trail. She has nothing to lose and gives up everything, changing her life entirely, to hike more than 1000 miles. She has a lot of personal tragedy in her past and she decides that she needs to do this crazy thing. She sells her stuff, bought supplies, arranged for packages to reach her on the trail, with the goal being to just do it.

I know I'm not summarizing it and doing it any kind of justice, but honestly, you need to read this. It's a story about a journey that leaves the reader changed from its reading.

This book broke me and put my back together again, a little bit better than I had been before. It was moving and inspiring in all the best ways.

I haven't had the pleasure of watching the movie yet, but while reading it I kept picturing Reese Witherspoon anyway. I think doing that gave me even more perspective on the story that I might not have had otherwise.

This book really touched me in ways I didn't think it would. I am so much better for having read this. I hope for the courage to do something daring like this in my life one day.

Recommendation: Read this. You will need some tissues. You will hurt, but you will come out on the other side better, believe me.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister and Mirror, Mirror by Gregory Maguire

Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister was my first foray into the world of fairy tale retelling. It was also my first read by Gregory Maguire. I picked both of these up at a used book store purely because I had heard of Wicked and how people loved that book, and his others.

I like Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister. It was interesting and I found the twists it put on the original to be quite good. I appreciated that the author kept to the traditional fairy tale by setting it in another time and place even though his story was a little more on the realistic side.

I did enjoy it, and I now have Wicked on my shelf, which I will get to at some point. I hope I enjoy it as much as others do. I will try to keep an open mind when I read it.

The copy of Mirror, Mirror that I picked up was an ARC, so I'm not 100% sure that it is exactly like the published copy, but I tried to read it, and failed. I just couldn't get into it. It was not enough for me, and I found myself getting bored. I put it down and I couldn't make myself pick it up again. I don't like to leave books unfinished, but with so many other books calling me from my shelf, I didn't want to bother. I'm sorry to those who loved it, but sadly I didn't.

Recommendation: Read these if you like, but neither one is on my favourites list, and I've actually removed my copies from my shelves and donated them to make room for new reads.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Devil Bones and Cross Bones by Kathy Reichs

I've been a big fan of the t.v. show Bones since it came out but until recently, I hadn't read any of the books that the show was based on. If you didn't already know the show (and the books) feature Temperance Brennan who is a forensic anthropologist. The similarities between the show and the books pretty much stop there. The books feature different characters, the main character has different personality traits, and where and for who Temperance works is different. The books follow the actual career of Kathy Reichs more closely than the show does, which isn't really a negative for me. I'm happy they aren't exactly like the books. I do wish though, that the two could have been a little more the same.

I picked both of these books up used at the same time but Devil Bones was the first one I read. I found it interesting. The story line featured some voodoo/magic type stuff which is always interesting in my book.

The down side I found was it was a lot like other thrillers of this type. It followed the same type of plot twists, the same type of ending, just overall the same feel as others I've read like this. It was an easy read and enjoyable at the time, but it just didn't stand out to me.

I didn't exactly solve the mystery before it was revealed but I did feel like it was something I've read before. I think perhaps I was expecting more from the book because I love the show so much.

I did my best to go into reading Cross Bones with an open mind. After all, I didn't know enough about this author's writing to make an overall assumption on her work. This one was  different for sure. This story focuses on Israel and the skeletons of what could have been Jesus and his family.

Kathy spend a year researching this book, even going to Israel herself. All the information relating to the bones and their details was actual fact, which I thought was pretty cool. I did find it a little heavy handed at times with the repetition of the facts as she did include a little fact sheet at the front of the book besides telling us more than once each little bit of information.

What kind of bugged me was that it felt like the mystery of the present day dead man killed in his warehouse fell way down by the wayside with the trip to Israel and the talk of the very old bones and who they could have belonged to. The murdered man's mystery was solved by the end but the mystery of the old bones has never been solved in reality so it wasn't solved in the book and it left me feeling like it was an incomplete story. It just wasn't really a favourite. I don't think I'll be collecting the series and adding them to my library.

Recommendation: Not bad reads. Entertaining for what they are but just don't expect them to be super similar to the show. Good if you like medical mystery/thrillers.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Still Life by Louise Penny

If you haven't seen the review I did on The Beautiful Mystery you may not know that it was the first book I read by Louise Penny, even though it is technically the eighth book in her series about Chief Inspector Gamache. I picked that one up at the library first to get a feel for her work before I purchased the first three books in a boxed set from the book store.

Still Life is her first book in the series. It's set in a small little town in Quebec, with a small cast of characters. Someone is found murdered and it is up to Gamache and his associates to find out what happened.

The author has this incredible way of drawing you into her characters and revealing their very essence in little to almost no words. Immediately you get a sense of who they really are and you feel so familiar with them, almost as if you knew them for real.

Her writing is perfection. She switches between character points of view so seamlessly that you hardly notice, but it just makes sense. In both of the books I've read so far I've laughed out lout at times. It's not that she told you jokes, but more like there were humorous situations that you could picture happening to those you know that would make you laugh. It really deepens your connection with the characters.

As for the mystery, I figured out who had done the murder early on, but it was only a hunch. I had no idea why this person committed the crime. It was just a thought I had that turned out to be right. It did not bother me in the slightest that I was right, the story was still really great in my opinion.

I really loved the Canadian touches she added into her work. It was pretty neat (well I think so, but I'm Canadian!). I just hate that she had be writing for 10 years and I just discovered her books now!

I don't usually review every book in a series, but I think I will keep writing about her books because I am totally enamoured by them!

Recommendation: If you enjoy a good mystery then please, please read these! You will not be disappointed!!

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Robert B. Parker's Wonderland by Ace Atkins

My mother was the one who introduced me to the novels by Robert B. Parker years ago at the library.  I was just getting into reading adult novels, and as he wrote mysteries, I ate them up.

He wrote about 70 novels in his time, passing away in 2011 I believe. He was known (as his website says) as the dean of American crime fiction. Many of his works were best sellers. Three of his series that I've read and enjoyed were the Spenser series, the Sunny Randall series, and the Jesse Stone series. The Spenser and Sunny Randall books follow their respective protagonists who are private detectives, and the Jesse Stone books follow a policeman of the same name. I do believe one or two of his Jesse Stone books were made into made for tv movies (if I remember correctly, but I could be wrong).

Now, there are multiple authors who are taking up his mantle and continuing on his work (with permission from his estate of course) with some of his series. This book is part of his Spenser series, and was written by Ace Atkins.

I am always leery about books written by someone else after an authors death. Especially in this situation, because the writing of Robert B. Parker was so different and unique in my opinion. I was curious to see if someone else could really accomplish what Parker could.

In my opinion, this was well done. If you have never had the pleasure of reading anything by Parker, I recommend you grab one from the library. His books can be read out of order without much of an issue, which is always good. He writes in such a way that less is more. With little words, he can convey big ideas. His detectives are flawed and different, but perfectly the stereotype of the American P.I. They are wonderful reads. Quite easy and quick reads too.

The characters all have their own codes of conduct as it were and his stories follow a certain type of formula. I was happily surprised that Ace Atkins accomplished everything that Parker did. It was well done. I do believe I will pick up more of these at the library when I see them.

Recommendation: I would check out the works of Robert B. Parker. He was a brilliant and prolific writer. Especially if you like reading about private detectives.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Dragon Keeper by Robin Hobb

I found this series at the book store last year. I was really interested in it at first glance because it was about dragons, their keepers, and the trials they face. I am always interested in fantasy like this. I kept my eye on them (because like most other bookworms, we have too many books already to read) and I held off till earlier this year.

Right from the beginning, I was sucked in. I won't go into detail, but the story was quite unlike any other dragon story I've read before. The author created their own kind of world and facts to go with it, all of which I found quite unique.

Now, from the synopsis on the back of the book, we are expecting certain things to happen in this book, but in fact, it's a bit misleading. The first 3/4 of the book is actually quite a bit of preparation for what the author has said will happen. It is so detailed that parts of the book feel like you are entering an entirely different story all together. By the end of the book all the parts come together though, and it ends almost on a complete cliffhanger. Thankfully, there are other books in the series ready and waiting to be read so you don't feel completely left wondering for long.

The writing was detailed and interesting. It was an engaging read that required your full attention less you miss out on some important details. This book isn't for the reader who likes fast paced action. Or the reader who prefers novels that only take a few hours to devour. Think of it more like Game of Thrones. It's a super detailed read. Well worth it though, but reader beware.

Recommendation: For the dragon lover, for the intense reader, for the lover of well written detailed stories. It was very worth it in my opinion.

Friday, September 11, 2015

The Beautiful Mystery by Louise Penny

I am a huge fan of mysteries and all things Canadian, so I was very surprised that I had not heard of Louise Penny until about two months ago. She has been writing her Chief Inspector Gamache novels based in Quebec for about 10 years now.  Her novels have all the French Canadian flavour you'd expect, and she's won many awards for her writing. Her newest novel has just come out, making the series 11 in total.

It was the announcement of her eleventh novel that caught my attention. At my local book store they were having a deal on the first three of her novels in a box set for a really good price. I was almost certain I would love her work, but instead I went to the library to find one of her books to give it a try.

This is the book I picked up, the only one of the series in stock. It's the eighth one in the series, and this one takes place at a small secluded abbey full of monks. One of the monks is killed, and Inspector Gamache is called in to find out whodunnit. It's not a very complicated mystery in all, but your focus becomes more on the other characters. It's a bit hard to explain, but it is very interesting either way.

Her writing is beautiful. She is a detailed writer, but not obnoxiously so. Her characters are perfectly imperfect but so engaging you fall for them almost immediately. You will become seriously invested in their lives right off the bat. She has a way of switching points of view between the characters that is so seamless you hardly notice, but somehow it just makes sense.

I did end up picking up the box set of the first three novels, and as I write this, I've actually picked up the fourth as well. I am well and truly hooked! I don't really like to write about each book in a series when they are so similar, but I can't help myself. I will be reviewing and gushing over each one as I read them!

Recommendation: It's got a brilliant detective, amazing writing, and an interesting mystery. What more could you ask for?

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Pirate King by Laurie R. King

This book is part of a series written by Laurie R. King that tells tales of Sherlock Holmes and his wife Mary Russell. According to this author, Sherlock is married, and the stories are being told from her point of view. She helps with his investigations, and in some cases, carries out her own investigations.

I will tell you right off the bat that these books feel like you are reading a Sherlock Holmes novel. They have the same feel that we lovers of the famous detective seek out in stories about him. It is perfectly lovely, and a little refreshing, to have a story about him told by the point of a view of a woman.

This particular story has Mary travelling with a film crew as they head out to sea to film a pirate movie. She is there to keep an eye on things, as asked by Sherlock's brother Mycroft, but the true nature of the game that is afoot is kept secret.

Mary herself is like a female Sherlock. She's smart, quick. no nonsense, and always on her toes. As a protagonist, I really enjoy her. This book kept my attention for hours. Time just flew by as I was reading. This one, and the others, are just so well written and interesting!

Recommendation: These are must reads for every Sherlock fan. Honestly, you won't be disappointed!

Monday, September 7, 2015

The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

I grabbed this at the library last time I was there because I keep seeing the book all over bookstagram. Normally, I stay pretty much away from teen novels because I just don't seem to enjoy them as much as others do but I found it purely by accident so I figured I would give it a try.

The book is about a girl who on her 19th birthday must take over the throne that was her mothers. There are so many problems that face her along with an enemy who threatens trouble to her kingdom. I won't say more, but that is not all there is to it. It's quite an interesting and full read.

Straight up: I loved it. In no way did it feel like a teen novel to me. It was wonderfully written. The characters were believable and interesting, and the subject of the book was really quite neat. The library marked it as science fiction, but it felt more medieval, almost Game of Thrones-esque. Medieval times in the future, I think you would call it.

I've heard that some people find it slow but I didn't think so at all. It was really detailed and it kept my full attention. It took me longer to read than a lot of books I read because I found it to be a more involving story. It total, I think it took me more like 5-6 hours to finish. It was quite easy to forget I was reading a teen novel because it felt so much like an adult novel. That could be why some people think its slow. It does move at a pace more suited to adult novels which can be more intense possibly for some readers.

I loved how the author teased you with details and such but left a lot to be revealed later on. I am very curious to see what happens next. There were a couple bits (especially at the beginning) that could be said to be repetitive, but honestly, I didn't pay that any mind. The story worked out very well in my opinion!

Recommendation: If you've heard of this book before and are curious about it, give it a read. I thoroughly enjoyed it! I think you'll be happily entertained!

Saturday, September 5, 2015

The Mangle Street Murders by M.R.C Kasasian

I picked this one up at the library purely based on its cover. Then I found out it was set in London in 1882 and I was super excited to read it.

I found out later this one is first in a series about a personal detective named Sidney Grice who takes in a woman who is the daughter of a friend when she has no where else to go once her father dies. She demands that she be part of his investigations (much to his great annoyance). The ensuing mysteries follow their time together.

Sidney Grice comes across as very pompous and self absorbed. He has a lot of Sherlock Holmes type tendencies but not quite the same amount of humanity. Sidney really does seem more self absorbed. Like Poirot, Grice is friends with a police chief and works with him to solve crimes.

The mystery itself was good. I figured out bits of the crime before it was revealed but there was so much more to it which happily surprised me.

There are bits that happened that neither Poirot or Sherlock would have let happen which kind of bugged me but it wasn't a bad book.  If I came across another one of his books I would probably pick it up at the library but it's not on my hit list.

Recommendation: Not a bad read. If you like the genius and callous detective type novels set in the 1880's London who get stuff done, then read this!

Thursday, September 3, 2015

The Picture of Dorian Grey by Oscar Wilde

Reading classics used to be a pain only inflicted upon me while in school. I don't know where my huge aversion came from, but I tended to stick to my isle of the library and read only mysteries and the occasional fantasy.

From vague references here and there I learned a bit about the story of Dorian Grey. What really piqued my interest was the movie The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. The idea that there was a man who didn't age because his portrait did it for him was so neat. 

Obviously, the book isn't quite as sinister as the portrayal was in the movie. It had a totally different tone to it, but that wasnt a bad thing. The premise was still the same. 

I read this book in about 5 hours I think, in about two sittings. I really enjoyed the imagery and the descriptions in the book. I will say though that I found parts of the book a little unecessary. As if there was too much there but not for the right reasons. 

It is a classic. One that I think is meant to be read. I, for one, will be reading it again. Who knows? perhaps my feelings towards parts may change on second reading. It has been quite a while since I've read it. Classic novels are classic for a reason. 

Recommendation: Read this as the classic and interesting story that it is. 

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

August Wrap Up!

This month was a better month for reading. I was quite busy at times but I did manage to get through 7 books. I'm not one for really posting ratings like out of 5 stars, but I will say that reviews for this months reads will be up periodically throughout this month.

I was trying to do the Book Bingo thing but I failed horribly. Didn't even get through the first read. I went out of town, then went to the library and things just went down hill from there. I loved the idea and I think it'll be great to keep doing it, but I haven't decided what path I'm going to take yet.

Onto my reads!

Library Books:

The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

Robert B Parker's Wonderland by Ace Atkins

The Mangle Street Murders by M.R.C. Kasasian

The Beautiful Mystery by Louise Penny

My Books:

Cross Bones by Kathy Reichs

Still Life by Louise Penny

The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling

The Demonologist by Andrew Pyper

On almost every trip I made to Chapters in the last couple of months I found myself drawn to this book. Every time though, I would put it back. Until the last trip when I finally just decided that if I keep reading the back and staring at it then I might as well read it!

I found it interesting. It's a story about a professor who studies literature related to demons and hell and other somewhat related religious works. He gets asked to simply travel to Rome to look at something. He does and all hell breaks loose.

I read that this book may be made into a movie. If it does it will probably be a horror movie. I honestly think that this book would make a better movie than a book. I felt like this book only touched the surface of a whole lot of things that I think the author was trying to convey. I wanted more information, I wanted more and I think perhaps a movie could show a whole lot more.

I enjoyed it but it wasn't anything really amazing and earth shattering. It did remind me a little of The Davinci Code (which I quite liked) but this book just didn't seem on the same level.

Recommendation: It's worth it for those who love demons and horror stories. It was not a terrible novel, but you could give it a miss.