Monday, 31 December 2018

Book Riot Read Harder 2018 in review: Alif the Useen #BookReview #ReadHarder2018 #Blogmas



Category 13: An Oprah Book Club selection (my choice featured on one of Oprah's Summer Reading Lists


Alif the Unseen


Author: G. Willow Wilson
Publisher: Grove Press
Published: June 19, 2012
Page count: 433
Genres: scifi, cyberpunk, fantasy, mythology
Date read: December 30, 2018
Number of times read: 1
Format: audiobook/hardcover
Source: Audible/Laurier Library









Summary

In an unnamed Middle Eastern security state, a young Arab-Indian hacker shields his clients—dissidents, outlaws, Islamists, and other watched groups—from surveillance and tries to stay out of trouble. He goes by Alif—the first letter of the Arabic alphabet, and a convenient handle to hide behind. The aristocratic woman Alif loves has jilted him for a prince chosen by her parents, and his computer has just been breached by the state’s electronic security force, putting his clients and his own neck on the line. Then it turns out his lover’s new fiancĂ© is the "Hand of God," as they call the head of state security, and his henchmen come after Alif, driving him underground. 

When Alif discovers The Thousand and One Days, the secret book of the jinn, which both he and the Hand suspect may unleash a new level of information technology, the stakes are raised and Alif must struggle for life or death, aided by forces seen and unseen.-via Goodreads 

Review

Written by the author who brought us Kamala Khan as the new Ms Marvel (which is an awesome run, I finally got around to starting it this year haha), this book is very much in the same vein as Cory Doctorow's Little Brother and Homeland which predate this book by a few years. It's in the same vein but it's also wholly original. As I was reading Alif I keep seeing similarities in theme and action to things that happen in Little Brother, they're mirrors of one another tackling the same sort of issues but from completely different directions. Doctorow's book is a decidedly Western treatment, and Wilson's Alif is absolutely an Eastern perspective. One of the central aspects of Wilson's book is Islamic mysticism/mythology. This is the first time I've ever seen science fiction blended with Islamic mythology, it makes me want to email my Islam professor from undergrad, Meena Sharify-Funk, and see if she's read it because I think she would absolutely love it...in fact I am going to take a couple of minutes and do that. And done. 

I really enjoyed this book as it was simultaneously familiar but also very new and different for me. The way Wilson blends modern high technology and contemporary political concerns with the fantastical elements of Islamic mythology is engrossing. She posits a metaphorical link between computer programming and mysticism that is actually really intriguing to think about as someone who only has a moderate level of knowledge about each. I've heard comparisons between scientists and the religiously devout, but never with computer programmers before, but it makes a certain amount of sense to stop and think about. There are a couple of times where it goes very deep with these lines of thought and manages to stay as realistic as something that contains magical jinn can.

One thing I found really problematic was the character of the Convert and her treatment. She is never given a name, she is referred to as the Convert or the other girl or the American from the time that she is introduced right up to her last mention. It's incredibly frustrating and I don't understand the choice on the part of the author, who is herself a convert to Islam. Maybe this was something she herself experienced and so she decided to put it into the book? I don't know but it's not a good choice in my opinion. Other than that one issue I thought it was a very well handled portrayal of everything she was trying to portray. I think it was a smart choice not to give her Eastern security state any specific identity it's just a generic desert town in the Middle East. It's representative of the issues not of any one specific locale.

The Jinn are very interesting. I wish she'd spent more time to focus on them and their society or included an appendix or something about them. We learn that there are many different types and that there seems to be a hierarchy, but beyond that, even though we spend quite a bit of time with the Jinn we never really learn much more about them. We don't learn everything they are capable of and we don't really learn about their society. I can understand that because they weren't the central focus of the book, but I wish there was some way for us to get more information about them.

The book ended at a very abrupt point, we're in the middle of a revolution that started because of Alif's actions and the plot of the book. But we just end on Alif and Dina walking back home after the climax. We never find out what actually comes from the Revolution, and we don't get definitive endings for Abu Talid or the Convert which I find unsatisfying.

Have you ever read a book that mirrored another book that you've read? Did you find yourself thinking about the juxtapositions while reading it?

Overall Rating


4.5 bolts


I did it! I completed Book Riot Read Harder 2018! It was a very near thing this year, but I did it haha.


Sunday, 30 December 2018

Book Riot Read Harder 2018 in review: Free Speech on Campus #BookReview #ReadHarder2018 #Blogmas



Category 14: A book of social science


I know, today's post is VERY, VERY late. In fact, it's cutting it close to midnight. But that's because I was still trying to finish the book haha. That being said, because the book was work-related I wrote the actual review on my work-related blog. So this post is a link to that post. Click the book cover below to go to my review. 


 Click here to go to the book review



Saturday, 29 December 2018

#Review : Bellewether by Susanna Kearsley #BookReview #CanadianContent #Blogmas



Still working on books 13 and 14 for Book Riot Read Harder. So another interlude, this time building on a short book review that I wrote a few months ago for an ARC I received from NetGalley. This review was originally posted in a much shorter format to both NetGalley and Goodreads.


Bellewether


Author: Susanna Kearsley
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Canada
Published: April 24, 2018
Page count: 414
Genres: romance, historical
Date read: March 25, 2018
Number of times read: 1
Format: ebook
Source: NetGalley









Summary

Some houses seem to want to hold their secrets.

It’s 1759 and the world is at war, pulling the North American colonies of Britain and France into the conflict. The times are complicated, as are the loyalties of many New York merchants who have secretly been trading with the French for years, defying Britain’s colonial laws in a game growing ever more treacherous.

When captured French officers are brought to Long Island to be billeted in private homes on their parole of honour, it upends the lives of the Wilde family—deeply involved in the treasonous trade and already divided by war.

Lydia Wilde, struggling to keep the peace in her fracturing family following her mother’s death, has little time or kindness to spare for her unwanted guests. French-Canadian lieutenant Jean-Philippe de Sabran has little desire to be there. But by the war’s end they’ll both learn love, honour, and duty can form tangled bonds that are not broken easily.

Their doomed romance becomes a local legend, told and re-told through the years until the present day, when conflict of a different kind brings Charley Van Hoek to Long Island to be the new curator of the Wilde House Museum.

Charley doesn’t believe in ghosts. But as she starts to delve into the history of Lydia and her French officer, it becomes clear that the Wilde House holds more than just secrets, and Charley discovers the legend might not have been telling the whole story...or the whole truth. -- via Goodreads

Review

This book is written by an author who lives pretty near to where I live actually, which made me find the book even more intriguing than I would have based purely on its premise. Kearsley is from Brantford, ON and I live in Waterloo which is less than an hour away in good traffic haha. What really made me request this book though was the premise. It's a multiple POV double romance novel that unfolds over two timelines. There's the present timeline which focuses on Charley the curator of a historic house museum. She really appeals to me as a character because something I've really been thinking about for the last few years (if I ever get my hands on the vast sums of money that would be needed to make it happen) is setting up a historic house museum in a couple of WWII era historic houses. The other thread in this novel is about Lydia, one of the occupants of the historic house that Charley is working at. Lydia's story takes place during the historic period of the Seven Years War. 

Now, for those of you who didn't have to study the Seven Years War in school as children, please allow me to do a quick recap for you. It was the first global war in that it was the first war in which battles were fought in Europe, India, America, and at sea. Given that this happened in 1756 and lasted until 1763 it happened in the period before Canadian Confederation, and this is important to remember because before Confederation France was still in charge of Quebec, and Britain for the rest of what would become Canada. It's also important to note that several states were still British colonies at the time. This mainly matters because primarily this war was between Britain and their allies against France and their allies. The outcome of this war was the Treaty of Paris which was eventually the basis for Confederation.

I remember learning about the Seven Years War for years in elementary school and I remember hating it. I just remember it being delivered in a very dry fashion, but that could also be because that year I was in French immersion and we were studying history in French... Anyway, when I realised this was set partially in that era, I was a little bit wary. I shouldn't have been though. It's an amazingly well-written book and it tells a compelling, beautiful story. I gave me a new sense of appreciation and wonder for that era, and actually makes me want to go and learn about it now, and that to me is always the mark of good historical fiction. Kearsley clearly knows her subject matter well, it's thoroughly researched - which becomes less surprising, but no less awesome when you read her explanation of her research and inspiration in the post-text.

I love the way she seamlessly wove in both strands, the contemporary story of Charley, the curator at the Wilde house Musem, and the historical strands of Lydia Wilde and the French Prisoner her family took in. The book was like an onion in a very good way, exposing its layers as you got deeper into it. Lydia and Jean-Philippe's story is absolutely beautiful and charming, you really can't help but root for the two of them. It's a very strange situation initially. You have Jean-Philippe who is a French officer, being held, hostage with an English family in New York. Jean-Philippe doesn't speak any English, and he just wants to do what is necessary to ensure the safety of his men. He also doesn't want to be a burden on the family that is hosting him. It's a very strange arrangement to wrap your head around when all your previous context for prisoners of war is that they were treated wretchedly. That is definitely not the case here at all as Jean-Philippe manages to become a valued member of the Wilde household.

The juxtaposition between Lydia and Jean-Philippe's story in the past with Charley's story in the present is very interesting. We're watching her go about her life in a new place as she researches Lydia and Jean-Philippe's story while restoring the Wilde House to get the museum ready to open. Paranormal events occur leading you to spend most of the book wondering which spirit from the story we're following in the past could be helping Charley out in the present? Charley is a very interesting character she's moved to New York State to help take care of her niece after her brother passes away and she takes on the Wilde House museum and finds herself growing closer and closer to her lead contractor on the restoration. It's two very different stories but Kearsley really has woven them together so well.

It also ended in a magnificently satisfying way. I will be seeking out more of this authors work to read in the future.

What do you think of books that take place in multiple timelines simultaneously?

Overall Rating



5 bolts


Friday, 28 December 2018

Book Riot Read Harder 2018 in review: Nerd do Well #BookReview #ReadHarder2018 #Blogmas



Category 12: A celebrity memoir


Nerd do Well


Author: Simon Pegg
Publisher: Arrow
Published: February 24, 2015 (first published January 1, 2009)
Page count: 368
Genres: nonfiction, autobiography, comedy
Date read: December 27, 2018
Number of times read: 1
Format: paperback
Source: OwlCrate









Summary

Zombies in North London, death cults in the West Country, the engineering deck of the Enterprise: Simon Pegg has been ploughing some bizarre furrows in recent times. Having blasted onto the small screens with his now legendary sitcom Spaced, his rise to nation's favourite son status has been mercurial, meteoric, megatronnic, but mostly just plain great.

From his childhood (and subsequently adult) obsession with Star Wars, his often passionate friendship with Nick Frost, and his forays into stand-up which began with his regular Monday morning slot in front of his 12-year-old classmates, this is a joyous tale of a homegrown superstar and a local boy made good.-via Goodreads 

Review

Some parts of this book really, really annoyed me. The "comic" interlude, for example, the story about the adventures Simon's alter-ego and his android companion Canterbury? So goddamned annoying and I could have easily, easily done without that 'story'. I put the word story in quotes there because it's clearly just there as filler and fluff and fanservice. It's barely a story being more of a self-indulgent male fantasy and making no apologies about it. Don't get me wrong it had its funny bits and the reveal of the villain and his motivation was clever, but it was sexist, crass, and stupid and should have been edited out of the first draft. The adventures of Simon and Canterbury take up 62 pages out of 368, that's 67% of the bloody book which means there's more of that damn adventure than there is actual memoir content and now that I've actually calculated that I am angry! As a nerd, who very much enjoys Simon Pegg and the films I've seen him in (and the work I plan to seek out from learning about it in this book) I think I am the target audience for this book. But I must be wrong because with two-thirds of the book being a sex-fuelled sexist romp with his "dashing" alter-ego this book seems very much targeted to male nerds who are into comedy, horror and scifi (because of course, it is those genres themselves tend to be pretty sexist in their fandoms sadly...). Another way this book comes off as exclusionary is some of the ways Pegg phrases things. I remember saying to a couple of my friends in late November when I was still only a short way into the book that I was pissed off at Pegg for the way he'd generalised his experience to be the same experience that "everyone" has while at the same time claiming to be really open towards marginalised groups, many of whom probably did not experience things that way. This was mainly in reference to a time where he said that everyone goes through that stage where they exploratorily play doctor with members of the opposite sex as children and explore each other. Yeah, that's not an experience I ever had as a child and you implying that I clearly should have because "everybody" does just makes me annoyed at your book sir and then by extension at you.

Other things that annoyed me were how much this damn book jumped around. I'm actually really mad at Ben Dunne at Century for the things he let slip through the editing process. It's all over the place with early anecdotes telling me he'll get to certain points related to them later in the book, but by the time you get to that part of the book you've completely forgotten the reference because of Simon and Canterbury's adventures and because you've gone through about twenty other topics and anecdotes since then. And Pegg's use of pseudonyms for some people in his life doesn't make that easier. He mentioned that he was calling one girl Eggy Helen early on in the book but said that he wasn't going to talk about her until later. By the time he finally got to Eggy Helen, I couldn't for the life of me remember what he'd originally said that caused him to bring her up so far in advance of her actual significance...

The book got better later into it once Pegg started talking about his career and his personal life from University up to the book's present of 2009. He talks about the movies and TV shows he's worked on and the connections he's made within his Hollywood network and what that's been like for him having grown up a nerd and idolising some of the people he's now working alongside. The latter half of the book is much tighter and more coherent. Which makes a certain amount of sense as those are more recent memories and experiences rather than things he is trying to recall clearly from childhood. He spends a good deal of the first half of the book rambling and shambling through anecdotes trying to tie them together into a linear series of events that shaped him into the man he was at the time of writing this book in 2009. The times when he does film analysis are the best; he's incredibly good at analysing films, which I now know makes sense given his educational background. He also mentions Carrie Fisher quite a bit throughout due to having had a decades-long crush on her before he finally got the chance to meet her. I feel like saying without a doubt that the memoir of hers that I read last year was so much better than this one. This one really was just mediocre. It needed a lot more in the way of editing.

Do you like Simon Pegg? What celebrity memoirs have you read?

Overall Rating


2.5 bolts


Thursday, 27 December 2018

Getting the gift of reading 2018 edition #Blogmas



Just a quick post tonight because it's been a whirlwind marathon two days for me of Christmas socialising with family. I am exhausted, compounded by the fact that I slept horribly last night. Since I talked about the books I gave yesterday I thought I could do a quick post today on the books I received!

There aren't actually very many, but what I did get, was a lot of potential books. Meaning that I got quite a few gift cards for stores that sell books. I got three Amazon gift cards, at least one of which I've already earmarked for a video game. One Kobo gift card to get some ebooks. And three chapters gift cards. For once I am not going to do what I usually do, which is on boxing day immediately log into the websites and buy all sorts of books. You see, I have 398 unread books that I own, you can see them all in my catalogued Library Thing collection which tracks every book I own. Because that's such a high number, and because for the last two years running I've managed to buy over 100 books in each year without really ever stopping to notice, I decided that in 2019 the only books I will buy are those that come from my Audible subscription, new books from my favourite authors, and books that are a part of ongoing series that I am reading. This should cut back on my book buying significantly until I have made a massive dent in my TBR pile. So I should be able to use the gift cards throughout the year to get all of the books that I want/need.

So all that being said, what actual books did I get for Christmas this year?

Bygone Badass Broads: 52 Forgotten Women Who Changed the World by Mackenzi Lee (who I didn't realise until I was cataloguing the book is the same author who wrote another book I loved, The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue.) "Based on Mackenzi Lee’s popular weekly Twitter series of the same name, Bygone Badass Broads features 52 remarkable and forgotten trailblazing women from all over the world. With tales of heroism and cunning, in-depth bios and witty storytelling, Bygone Badass Broads gives new life to these historic female pioneers. Starting in the fifth century BC and continuing to the present, the book takes a closer look at bold and inspiring women who dared to step outside the traditional gender roles of their time. Coupled with riveting illustrations and Lee’s humorous and conversational storytelling style, this book is an outright celebration of the badass women who paved the way for the rest of us." (via Goodreads) I'm really excited to read this along with my cope of Rejected Princesses which I got in 2017. I love reading about the interesting women in history who paved the way so that I can have the rights I have today.

The other book that I received is something that I know right now Angie will want to read when she comes over in May. Published by the British Library I have Harry Potter: A Journey Through A History of Magic which is based on the special exhibition that they did of the same name. "An irresistible romp through the history of magic, from alchemy to unicorns, ancient witchcraft to Harry's Hogwarts – packed with unseen sketches and manuscript pages from J.K. Rowling, magical illustrations from Jim Kay and weird, wonderful and inspiring artefacts that have been magically released from the archives at the British Library.

This spellbinding book takes readers on a journey through the Hogwarts curriculum, including Herbology, Defence Against the Dark Arts, Astronomy, Divination and more. Discover the truth behind making the Philosopher's Stone, create your very own potion and uncover the secret of invisible ink. Learn all about the history of mandrake roots and dragons, discover what witches really used their brooms for, pore over incredible images of actual mermaids and read about real-life potions, astronomers and alchemists.

The perfect gift for aspiring witches and wizards and any Harry Potter fan. Celebrating twenty years of Harry Potter magic, and produced in association with the British Library to support their major exhibition, Harry Potter: A History of Magic." (via Goodreads) I was so disappointed that Angie and I never actually got to see the exhibition, but at least I can read about it now that I have this book. This book is a companion to the Harry Potter: A History of Magic book, also published by the British Library that I recieved for Christmas last year. You guys should know by now that I love all things Harry Potter, so I am really excited to read both of these books. I wanted to wait until I had both to read them because they really do go together. Also, because I am a sucker for both Harry Potter and Natalie Dormer this year I also got myself Harry Potter: A History of Magic
An Audio Documentary which Natalie Dormer narrates. I'm just going to be all up in the history of magic with these three haha.



Strictly Come Dancing 2018 - The Grand Final

So the grand final of Strictly has been and gone, many apologies for not posting this sooner.  I had all the intentions and with the run into Christmas, I never got around to posting it.  However, it was a night full of wonderous dancing and amazing performances.

The pros kicked off with their opening dance introducing the four finalists for the evening.  In the order they will be performing, please welcome  Ashley Roberts and her partner Pasha Kovalev, Stacey Dooley and her partner Kevin Clifton, Faye Tozer and her partner Giovanni Pernice and finally Joe Sugg and his partner Diane Buswell.

So the first dance of the evening for the four couples is a dance chosen by the judges.  They choose a dance they have already performed in an earlier week which they feel could be improved on from when it was first performed.

Ashley was given her Salsa from Week 3 which was her Dirty Dancing routine in Movie week.  In week 3 she got a score of 35.  Whilst it was a good routine and obviously iconic dance, and yes the lift was carried off well, I wasn't that enamoured with it the first time.  I somehow feel her legs should be together in the lift, I would have to look at the original again to check but I still wasn't blown away in the final.  However, the judges seemed to think it was perfect giving her a score of 40.

Stacey had to dance her Foxtrot from Week 4.  I remember this being okay but nothing special and the faffing about with the motorcycle annoyed me.  It was much the same the second time around, too much faffing but the dancing itself was okay. The judges gave her a score of 33 the first time which increased to 39 tonight.

Third up was Faye who was given her Viennese Waltz from way back in Week 2.  I remember this one because I didn't like it at the time, it was too fierce and angry for the VW.  However, the judges liked the take on it back then and feel like she can improve upon her first performance.  Obviously, the routine wasn't going to change so the chances of me liking it a second time were slim to none.  Again the judges liked it, increasing her score from 31 in Week 2 to a perfect 40 for the final.

Finally, it was Joe and he was given his Paso Doble from Week 7.  I remember thinking how impressed I was with this routine but he had a bit of a wobble on the knee slide.  It turns out he came out of it on the wrong foot which is why it looked wobbly.  So he'd obviously worked on that and his free arm as well.  The final performance looked more polished and I loved his cheeky little grin when he got the knee lift right.  A great improvement from 34 up to 39.

So after the first dance, we have two dancers on 40 and two on 39.  A close call but for me, Joe was the best in the first dance.

Now onto the Showdances.  These are the dances which give the pros a chance to choreograph a dance which highlights the best in their celeb partners, showcase what they have learnt and generally give a spectacular dance without any restrictions on lifts, steps or techniques.  However, I feel this season they have lost their impact a little with the introduction of the Couples Choice which is not quite as much freedom as the Showdances but fewer restrictions than the usual dances.   You can find the links to all four Showdances in this article.

Ashley chose a very contemporary style to her showdance.  It was visually beautiful, the lifts were perfectly executed and the timing was impeccable, especially using the revolving stage.  There were no wobbles or missed cues.  The whole thing was quite incredible to watch, however, the only thing for me is, as I mentioned earlier, it was too much like her contemporary Couples Choice dance so it lost a lot of its impact over me.  Nice but not special.

Next up was Stacey and I was looking forward to this as Kevin had been building up the excitement for this during the week by saying it was something never before seen on Strictly and would require perfect timing to pull off.  Talk about an anti-climax, Kev!   This whole routine felt disjointed, rushed and not much dancing. It was more just running around from mark to mark and not at all the type of quality we have come to expect from Kevin.  Disappointing.

Next was Faye and what a contrast to Stacey.  This dance was pure old school class.  It was elegant, entertaining and stylish.  Giovanni knows exactly how to show off his celeb and their expertise.  Faye looked confident during this routine, she knew she could dance like this and the sections on the top hat were sublime.  A proper traditional style dance, straight out of the old dance halls.  Perfect performance.

The final showdance was Joe's and it was completely different from all the other showdances and also different from anything we've seen from Joe so far.  It was as if Dianne gave him the freedom to be himself and the confidence to break free of the confines of technique. However, there still seemed to be a bit of running around but not as much as Stacey.  There were some great steps and recognisable steps in the routine but what really showed was Joe's enjoyment.  Frantic but fun.

So the showdances scored 40 for both Faye and Ashley, 39 for Joe and 36 for Stacey.  My favourite was Faye, she's topp(Hat)ed out for me.

Finally, the third dance from the finalists is their own choice.  This is usually a dance they scored high on or just generally enjoyed performing in a final bid to impress.

Ashley chose to dance her Charleston again.  This was from back in Week 6 and I thoroughly enjoyed it back then. I was pleased they chose to do this, it was fun and quirky but also technically perfect and fantastic to watch.  I don't like her much but I do like this routine from her.  It was so good to see her embrace her fun side and not the usual pouting show-off she usually comes across as. Perfect 40 once again but deservedly so.

Stacey and Kevin chose to revisit their Paso Doble from week 10.   I always love Kevin's Pasos, he seems to excel at them and this was good the first time around.  Apart from an unfortunate wardrobe malfunction at the end (it was a flesh coloured bodysuit but looked like something else. Surely a black bodysuit would have been much better?), this was a great routine and deserved her 39 points from the judges.

Faye's final routine was her Couples Choice Jazz, again from week 6.  I was so excited to see this again.  Although it didn't have the same impact without the Halloween makeup, it was still in perfect sync and such an incredible routine.  Scoring 39 the first time because Craig marked her down for almost losing her glasses, this time not even Craig could fault her and she got the 40 score she truly deserved.  Amazing performance.

The final dance went to Joe and unusually they chose, not the best dance but an early dance.  They went for the Charleston from Week 2, according to Joe they wanted to do this again to see how much he had improved over the weeks.  This was enjoyable back in week 2 although a bit rough and ready.  This time, they had smoothed out the rough spots and raised their score a massive 7 points from 31 to 38!

Once again I put Faye on top so for me, Faye was the best performer on the night overall.  My rankings were as follows

Faye, Joe, Ashley, Stacey

However, the judges placed them as follows

Ashley 120
Faye  120
Joe  116
Stacey 114

However the final result is determined by public vote alone, the judge's scores have no impact on the final winner.  Whilst the votes are counted and verified, there was a performance from Michael Buble and the Class of 2018 take to the floor for one final dance (and yes Danny was back to feature in this).

Finally, it was time to reveal the Strictly Come dancing champions of 2018.  Drum roll please.........and it's Stacey and Kevin!!!! Whilst I was pleased that Stacey won (and not Ashley), I was even more thrilled for Kevin.  He is such a talented performer and teacher.  He has been on the show for six seasons and been a finalist for 5 of those years.  Even the year he didn't make the final, last year with Susan Calman, he took her further than anyone imagined.  He truly deserved this win, his reaction was adorable and it was so cute to see the first person over to him to congratulate him was his ex-wife Karen.  Still clearly so much affection between them despite their personal problems.

So ends another wonderful season of Strictly.  Now we face the long wait until next August when the next round of celebs are revealed. (I know there's a Christmas Day show but I already knew the winner of this was Aston Merrygold, thanks to the Strictly Spoiler)

Until next year then

Keep Dancing


Tuesday, 25 December 2018

Giving the Gift of Reading 2018 edition #Blogmas



You should all know by now how much I love giving my friends and family books as gifts. I think I've talked about the books I've given as Christmas gifts every year Angie and I have had this blog, so let's continue the tradition.

We'll start with my friend Matt, well, one of the Matts anyway, there are two and they both got books from me this year haha. For the first Matt, I was placing an order at BookOutlet.ca and was also trying to cut back on the number of books I was buying. Book Outlet's prices are insanely cheap and in order to get free shipping you need to spend $45 minimum, which usually nets me 8 or 9 books, but I didn't want that many haha. So I asked Matt and our friend Mel if there was anything either of them wanted which got Matt and I discussing the books he's missing from his Stephen King collection. He mentioned he's been having a hard time tracking down an inexpensive copy of Cujo. Well, I went hunting and found a copy at The Book Depository that cost less than what Chapters or Amazo were selling it for, so that's what he got.


Mum and I also got some of the kids books for Christmas this year, but I can't remember which ones now and they're already wrapped up! That wasn't smart of me haha. There's a 5-minute stories Disney storybook collection, and a Disney bedtime story collection for the youngest one and then for one of the older ones there was a Star Wars DIY crafting book. I got my mum quite a few books for Christmas too. She's always complaining that she's run out of new books to read so she's rereading books she's read loads of times, so I always try and get her at least three new books for Christmas. This year I got her four. I got her two Max Hastings books, Das Reich : The March of the 2nd SS Panzer Division Through France, June 1944 and The Secret War : Spies, Codes and Guerrillas 1939-1945. She's a military history buff and apparently, Max Hastings is an award-winning writer in the genre (which is not a genre that is my personal forte). She seemed really excited about them both when she opened them. I the same vein I also got her The Railway Man by Eric Lomax, which is a memoir of one of the POWs who worked on the Burma-Siam Railway. The last book I got her was also nonfiction, but not military this time, she's also interested in reading about the Romanovs, so I got her The Race to Save the Romanovs: The Truth Behind the Secret Plans to Rescue the Russian Imperial Family by Helen Rappaport. Which was only published this June, she didn't even know it existed yet so she was quite surprised to get it.




Then lastly there's the other Matt. He's a little tricky to buy for in that I'm never sure what he already had in his collections. See he's a big fan of both Batman and Doctor Who. He has pretty big collections of merch from both fandoms, so I like to add to his collections where I can by getting him things that he doesn't already have. My contribution this year to his Batman collection for Christmas was a rubber duck dressed as Batman. I was in the process of writing a sentence about how I think he'll feel about the duck and then he literally messaged me at that exact moment to tell me he and his wife opened their gifts so I don't have to speculate on what he thinks of the duck, I can just tell you. They really liked them :) (I got her an R2D2 kitchen timer because she loves cooking and baking and she collects Star Wars merch). Now to the book, I got him, that was for his Doctor Who collection. I was looking for Doctor Who merch on Etsy when I came across a store that sells used books and she had a small assortment of Doctor Who choose your own adventures from the 1980s. So, obviously I bought one, so my friend Matt is now the proud owner of a 32-year-old copy of Doctor Who: Mission to Venus.

Angie didn't get any books from me for Christmas this year because Amazon still hasn't made it so that you can buy people Kindle books as gifts! Come on Amazon, get your act together on that haha. I do have a book for her that I got from a used book fundraiser at the university I work at though, she knows about it and I'll be sending it along with her birthday gifts. Brenda Novak's Until You Loved Me.


#Review : Riders by Jilly Cooper #BookReview #Blogmas



Break time from the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge reviews, because I am still not finished the books for categories 12, 13, and 14...I'm NEARLY done them so they will get interspersed with non-Book Riot reviews this week. It's been hectic lately, I've had so much to do with work and holiday stuff that I haven't really had time to actually sit down and read. Especially since I decided to replay my way through all of the Kingdom Hearts games in anticipation of Kingdom Hearts III finally coming out next month. I have been waiting for that game for over 10 years now. Anyway, for this non-Book Riot review, I decided to go with another book that's up Angie's alley that I read this year. In fact, she'd read this one. I found my way to this book thanks to a joke that I didn't realise was a joke from Richard Hammond in an episode of Top Gear. Hammond was teasing the old Stig (who wrote a book) by calling him romance novelist Jilly Cooper, and at the time I had never heard of Jilly Cooper and wondered if this really was a pen name for him. Curiosity led me to look up Jilly Cooper on Goodreads and discovering Riders which luckily fulfilled a PopSugar challenge for this year. I finished this book but ended up failing PopSugar overall so the less said about that part the better haha.


Riders


Author: Jilly Cooper
Publisher: Transworld Digital
Published: December 23, 2010 by  (first published January 1, 1985)
Page count: 928
Genres: romance, chick lit, sports
Date read: June 16, 2018
Number of times read: 1
Format: ebook
Source: Kobo









Summary

‘Sex and horses: who could ask for more?’ Sunday Telegraph

Set against the glorious Cotswold countryside, Riders offers an intoxicating blend of swooning romance, adventure and hilarious high jinks.

Brooding hero Jake Lovell, under whose magic hands even the most difficult horse or woman is charmed, is driven by his loathing of the dashing darling of the show ring, Rupert Campbell-Black. Having pinched each other’s horses and drunk their way around the capitals of Europe, the feud between the two men finally erupts with devastating consequences at the Los Angeles Olympics . . .

A classic bestseller, Riders takes the lid off international show jumping, a sport where the brave horses are almost human, but the humans behave like animals.

‘Joyful and mischievous’ Jojo Moyes 
‘Exhilarating, irresistible and one of our nation’s most beloved novels’ Jill Mansell
‘Jilly Cooper is the funniest and the sharpest writer there is’ Jenny Colgan
‘Flawlessly entertaining’ Helen Fielding -- via Goodreads

Review


To give you a very quick and dirty idea about my feelings towards this book I present how long it took me to read: I started this book on January 26, and I finished it on June 16. That's very nearly 5 months. Because I kept getting so frustrated that I would have to put it down for long stretches before I could bring myself to come back to it. Why? Well, because every single one of the characters is horribly flawed and melodramatic and I just couldn't handle it in big doses. This book is a door stopper! It's longer than a Harry Potter book and nearly as long as the longest two Dark Tower books!! It's like taking the entire eight seasons of Desperate Housewives making it about athletes and turning it into a book. The drama just never, ever stops, it continues to get crazier and crazier right up to the end. Every time you think there is going to be a moment's reprieve something completely crazy happens! There was one point in the book that very, very nearly made me want to give up on the whole enterprise and it certainly turned me completely against Billy, I was kind of rooting for him up until the trip to Africa. But that put me completely off him, and I already didn't like Janey and hated Rupert so that incident really just made me hate them even more.

It's really weird to consider this book one thing, it really does feel more like I am reviewing a season or series of a television show simply because of the scale and scope. There are about 14 characters who could be considered "main characters" the ones with the most focus are Jake, Rupert, Helen, Fen, Billy, and Janey but there are loads of other characters who could be considered MCs. And they're all absolutely horrible. A couple have some redeeming qualities, out of the above-listed ones Fen and Helen aren't completely irredeemable. Jake comes close to being completely irredeemable but scraps it together at the eleventh hour and sort of manages to at least partially redeem himself. Rupert, Bill and Janey though? They can go to hell. I hope Rupert gets some comeuppance in the rest of the series but I expect he won't because he's considered Cooper's dashing 'hero' figure. He's a sexist, misogynistic pig. He treats his wife and son appallingly (to put it mildly). He's abusive among other things, completely and totally reckless, and has anger issues. He's even guilty of animal cruelty. I just can't find him likeable. He was definitely responsible for a lot of the times when I had to put the book down and take a break. It would be fine if he'd ever actually faced any real justice for the awful things he did, but he never ever did, by the end of the book he's come up smelling of roses, and Jake, who was bad, but nowhere near Rupert's level of asshole, has lost almost everything and everyone that matters to him.

The plot is very much like a soap opera. It's a years-long feud between two show jumpers, Jake Lovell and Ruper Campbell-Black. Rupert's the spoilt, filthy rich aristocratic athlete, whereas Jake is an orphan, part-gipsy, and is very much working class especially compared to Rupert. But Jake is more naturally talented than Rupert and has a lot more compassion for the animals, so their styles clash. Plus Rupert used to bully Jake when they went to the same school. Any time that show jumping is happening in the book it's, in my opinion, the absolute best parts of the book. Cooper has done an amazingly detailed portrayal of what it's like to run in show jumping circles and to actually participate in an event. She definitely did her research for that. I definitely would have rated this book higher if not for how angry 99% of the characters made me. 

Also, I love the ridiculousness of that cover, it's fantastic haha.

Do you think it's fair to judge a character written in the 80s by today's standards of behaviour?

Overall Rating


3.5 bolts


Monday, 24 December 2018

Book Riot Read Harder 2018 in review: Frankenstein #BookReview #ReadHarder2018 #Blogmas



Category 24: An assigned book you hated (or never finished)


Frankenstein


Author: Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
Narrator: Dan Stevens
Publisher: Audible Inc.
Published: October 29, 2013 (first published January 1, 1818)
Page count: 258 (run time: 8 hrs, 35 min.)
Genres: horror, scifi
Date read: October 28, 2018
Number of times read: 2
Format: audiobook
Source: Audible









Summary

Mary Shelley began writing Frankenstein when she was only eighteen. At once a Gothic thriller, a passionate romance, and a cautionary tale about the dangers of science, Frankenstein tells the story of committed science student Victor Frankenstein. Obsessed with discovering the cause of generation and life and bestowing animation upon lifeless matter, Frankenstein assembles a human being from stolen body parts but; upon bringing it to life, he recoils in horror at the creature's hideousness. Tormented by isolation and loneliness, the once-innocent creature turns to evil and unleashes a campaign of murderous revenge against his creator, Frankenstein.

Frankenstein, an instant bestseller and an important ancestor of both the horror and science fiction genres, not only tells a terrifying story, but also raises profound, disturbing questions about the very nature of life and the place of humankind within the cosmos: What does it mean to be human? What responsibilities do we have to each other? How far can we go in tampering with Nature? In our age, filled with news of organ donation genetic engineering, and bio-terrorism, these questions are more relevant than ever.-- via Goodreads 

Review

I bought this book for a couple of reasons. The first being my friend Debbie. She is the science librarians at the university I work at and because this year marked the 200th anniversary of the writing of Frankenstein she was going to run a program about the book. We're very supportive of one another at my place of work, we like to attend each other's programs. So I knew that was going to mean revisiting this book. I originally read it for an undergraduate course during my English degree. At the time I disliked it so very much. I was not a fan at all. For that reason, I was hesitant to revisit it now. Last year I discovered that the audiobook version of Dracula was much more engaging than trying to just read the book on its own (it was another horror classic I'd had a hard time with in print) and that inspired me to look at the audiobook editions of this. I discovered the Dan Stevens edition fairly quickly. I like Dan Stevens as an actor, and I also really like him as an audiobook narrator. At the time of purchasing this, I had already read two other audiobooks narrated by Dan Stevens and I really enjoyed both. They were Casino Royale and Murder on the Orient Express. That ended up being all the prompting I needed to purchase the audiobook. And I am glad that I did because this time around I absolutely loved the novel.

Shelley tackled an incredibly progressive premise in her seminal novel. It really is impressive that she created this work at the age of eighteen. It speaks to the nature vs. nurture argument. Clearly, she had latent talent for writing, but it almost certainly helped that at the time of writing Frankenstein she was surrounded by a circle of friends and family who were all talented and well know writers in their own rights, including her mother and husband. In fact, her husband helped edit the book when Shelley finished it. As the summary for the Audible edition notes, the questions that Shelley asks with Frankenstein were not only incredibly astute for the era she was writing, they remain important and even more worth asking in the present. My only complaint on that front is that the book is in fact inextricably tied to the time in which it was set instead of being more ambiguous about whether it was the present or the future. I think it can almost be considered magical realism in that way. 

The plot is actually fairly straight-forward, man is introduced, we follow the man as he works on his project, he loses control over his creation, and then he spends the rest of the action trying to regain control. It's a pretty standard structure. It's the story that Shelley wrote around that simple expected structure that makes the book awesome. Victor really is hard to like as a protagonist, especially when you think about things from the monsters view. Now, the monster does definitely do some terribly gory things in his pursuit of revenge but Victor is no innocent victim and no reader should see him as such. Victor and his Monster are indeed both victims of each other. Shelley writes their incredibly complex relationship in such a way that it looks easy. Both the monster and Victor are vulnerable and likeable at times, but not all the time. I applaud Shelley greatly for her use of imperfect characters. That makes them come across as much more real.

I don't really know what else to say except, I am really glad that I revisited this book because I really did enjoy it this time around. I suspect the only reason that I didn't the first go around is because of my hate on for prescribed reading. Also if you can get your hands on the Audible editon do it because Dan Stevens is so good as a narrator, he's got the perfect voice for it.


Do you ever revisit books years after the first time you tried them? Have your opinions changed about them?

Overall Rating


4 bolts


Sunday, 23 December 2018

Book Riot Read Harder 2018 in review: A Caribbean Mystery #BookReview #ReadHarder2018 #Blogmas



Category 23: A book with a female protagonist over the age of 60 


A Caribbean Mystery


Author: Agatha Christie
Publisher: Dodd, Mead
Published: Published 1965 (first published November 16, 1964)
Page count: 246
Genres: mystery
Date read: July 14, 2018
Number of times read: 1
Format: hardcover/audiobook
Source: Laurier Library/Waterloo Public Library









Summary

The delightful Miss Marple is ensnared in A Caribbean Mystery when a retired military man sparks her curiosity with a photograph and a strange story of a murderer.

As Miss Marple sat basking in the Caribbean sunshine, she felt mildly discontented with life. True, the warmth eased her rheumatism, but here in paradise nothing ever happened.

Eventually, her interest was aroused by an old soldier’s yarn about a murderer he had known. Infuriatingly, just as he was about to show her a snapshot of this acquaintance, the Major was suddenly interrupted. A diversion that was to prove fatal.-- via Goodreads 

Review

I know that this is the tenth book in the Miss Marple series, so there is probably a lot of context from the first nine books that I am missing by starting with this one. chose this one though because I had ready access to it as both a physical book and an audiobook which is exactly the combination I was after. Sometimes I like to follow the narrator along with a physical copy of the book I am reading. But I think in this case the context I was missing didn't hinder me too much, which is why the book still got 3.5 bolts. It's a good book though, the mystery actually kept me going for a little bit.

You see there is a reason why I don't read more mysteries and it's because of a talent I've picked up from my mum. I'm not quite as good as her but it's still a problem. I am really good at solving fictional mysteries long before the main character does. But my mum is even faster. One time when we were playing clue, she got the right guess on the second round, not HER second round, she was the second person to play. And on her first turn, she guessed it. Another time we went to a live murder mystery play. And of all the audiences over the course of the three-night run, the group at my table, thanks to mum and me, were the only group to actually solve the mystery ahead of the reveal.

So when I say that this mystery actually staid mysterious on me almost nearly until the end, then that's high praise for a mystery novel. Miss Marple herself is an interesting character, she's a little old English lady who keeps getting roped into solving crimes. Thanks to this book I now want to seek out the whole series. Might have to borrow the BBC DVDs I got for my mm.

Do you read mysteries? Do you often solve them before the main character does?

Overall Rating


3.5 bolts


Friday, 21 December 2018

Book Riot Read Harder 2018 in review: Out Behind the Desk #BookReview #ReadHarder2018 #Blogmas



Category 22: An essay anthology


Out Behind the Desk: Workplace Issues for Lgbtq Librarians


Author: Tracy Nectoux (ed.)
Publisher: Litwin Books, LLC  
Published: May 15, 2011 (first published 2010)
Page count: 294
Genres: nonfiction
Date read: January 28, 2018
Number of times read: 1
Format: paperback
Source: Laurier Library









Summary

Out Behind the Desk: Workplace Issues for LGBTQ Librarians is an anthology of personal accounts by librarians and library workers relating experiences of being gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, or queer at work. A broad spectrum of orientations and gender identities are represented, highlighting a range of experiences of being and/or coming out at work.-- via Goodreads 

Review

At the tail end of 2017, I decided to be super ambitious. (Meaning crazy stupid...) I decided that as part of the professional Twitter chat I co-host on library-related issues, we should run a virtual book club! I seem to have momentarily forgotten that I hate being told what book to read when at the time that I came up with that idea...Anyway, I was responsible for picking most of the books and I picked this one for January and then cut it right up until the say of the chat to finish reading it. Not because it was bad or boring, but because of the above hatred of being told what to read and by when. Plus also the PDF I had made for myself (my ILL was due back before I finished the book) was way too small on my Kobo and I couldn't get it to zoom so I had to read less of it at a time because it made my astigmatism act up.

Overall I thought it was a really good anthology. There were a lot of fantastic essays in it and I walked away wanting to learn more and get more involved. To me, that's the mark of good nonfiction. How much does it make me care about the subject it's about, and what does it make me want to do about it. I chose this book specifically because it has a personal interest to me. I'm bi, but I keep that pretty quiet and I don't date so it's never really a topic that comes up unless I'm specifically talking about LGBTQ issues. I've never been involved in the LGBTQ community in a meaningful way but I've always wanted to learn more about it and about how to maybe get involved. So when I found out there was a book out there about the LGBTQ experience in libraries I was very interested in reading it. And I got what I wanted out of it, it was really worthwhile for me. I learned about the history of LGBTQ people in the library profession.

The two major disappointments that I had with this book were mainly with the content. Firstly the fact that it's from 2010/11 means it's eight years out of date, and in the States especially, there's been an awful lot of upheaval in relation to LGBTQ rights and experiences in the intervening years. I'd like to see a sequel done now, I feel like that would be a very valuable book to have, and very powerful. The other thing about the content that really annoyed me is something that annoys me about a lot of LGBTQ content - bi-erasure, it's a thing, I wish it weren't a thing, and it's annoying as all hell. There was little bi content in this book and what there was, was not so great. There was even less relatable content for Trans librarians.

Because I was using this book for a book club I actually took a lot of notes about it. Twelve pages worth of notes to be precise. Looking back at my notes now after almost a year, there are definitely some essays in the anthology that I would probably go back to for reexamination. 

Do you read books about your industry or for your work?

Overall Rating


4 bolts