Thursday, June 22, 2017

Home from the Vinyl Cafe

Home from the Vinyl Cafe: A Year of StoriesHome from the Vinyl Cafe: A Year of Stories 
by Stuart McLean
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a funny collection of stories about everyday life. It happens to be everyday life in Canada, but it seemed pretty applicable to life in any 1st world nation. 
The stories are all about the fictional Dave and Morley, their 2 kids and their various friends and neighbors. All the stories were good, and easy to identify with. Among my favorite bits:

  • Dave's father Charlie singing about an upcoming math test to the tune of Big Spender
  • "Labor Days" which focuses on some of the things about being a Mom that challenge Morley. My sister should read this, or maybe just keep her toothbrush in her own room to be on the safe side.
The best part of the stories for me was the insight about relationships. Especially how easily they can go off the rails, or not, based on whether you recognize a landmine before you step on it.
"When someone you love is upset enough to suggest calling the police over a missing smoke bush, you have two choices. You can, if you don't care how the rest of the day goes, say, 'The plant police? We should phone the plant police? Are you out of your mind?" Or you can muster as much affection as possible and say, as Dave did, 'You stay with the plants. I'll call the police." Then you go inside and stand in the kitchen for what feels like an appropriate amount of time before you come back outside and lie. You say, 'They are sending out a car. and if they see anyone with a smoke bush they are going to stop them. On the spot.' Dave considered adding something about how they were going to check the florists in the area, but the thing about a successful lie is not going too far." (p. 104)

Thy Vinyl Cafe was a program on CBC radio hosted by Stuart McLean who lived in Toronto until his recent death. This book counts toward the Canadian Book challenge.


Monday, June 19, 2017

Jacob Two-Two Meets the Hooded Fang

Jacob Two-Two Meets the Hooded FangJacob Two-Two Meets the Hooded Fang
by Mordecai Richler

This was a charming, funny story about being little and still being able to do important stuff.
"Most days Jacob Two-Two was happy, but other days, bad days, he was very sad. On bad days, he saw that all the other children in the house were taller and much more capable than he was. His two older brothers, and even his two older sisters, could ride two-wheel bicycles, dial a telephone number, whistle, do joined-up writing, play checkers, and catch a ball." (p.1-2)
The same style of writing--short declarative sentences with a bit of a perspective twist when you aren't expecting it--that I like in Richler's novels was present here. There was also a wry observation to Jacob's view of the world that reminded me of The Phantom Tollbooth.

This book counts toward the Canadian Book challenge.


Sunday, June 18, 2017

Lisa's Review: Bones Never Lie

Bones Never Lie by Kathy Reichs

My Rating: 4 of 5 stars

Bones Never Lie is the 17th book in the Temperance Brennan series, and the 2nd that I have read. In this book, Tempe is called to investigate a case involving two related child murders. Both are linked to Anique Pomerleau, a murderer that Tempe and Detective Ryan were not able to capture years earlier.

I thought the crime and plot aspect of this book was excellent. Looking back I'm surprised I didn't figure out 'who did it' earlier, but always happy when I don't. I think this is the first time I've started to read a series out of order. A piece of me is enjoying being random, but another is a little tweaked thinking I need to be in order. I think that might make sense for following the relationship of Tempe & Ryan. I'm also wondering if there are pieces of cases that go book to book - I found that an earlier book covers the earlier Pomerleau case, so I'm not sure if this is common with other books in this series. I think I'll try a few more random order books.    

This is my twelfth book read for the 10th Annual Canadian Book Challenge.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Lisa's Review: Essex County

Essex County by Jeff Lemire

My Rating: 4 of 5 stars

Essex County is a graphic novel trilogy. Book One, Down by the Farm, is about a lonely boy living on his uncles' farm, and loves superheroes. Book Two, Ghost Stories, follows two hockey playing brothers throughout their lives. And Book Three, The Country Nurse, switches in timeline between 1917 & a nun who is working at an orphanage to more present day & a nurse who calls on patients around Essex County. There is also some bonus material at the end of the book.

I won this book from a monthly mini-challenge in the 10th Annual Canadian Book Challenge. The mini-challenge was to read a graphic novel in that chosen month. Since then, in the past year, I have read four graphic novels (three of which were written and/or illustrated by Jeff Lemire). I have to say that Essex County has been my favorite so far. I loved the way the 3 books were separate yet had intertwining bits.    

This is my eleventh book read for the 10th Annual Canadian Book Challenge (two more to go before July 1st!).

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Lisa's Review: Beerology

Beerology by Mirella Amato

My Rating: 3 of 5 stars

Beerology is a guide to most things beer related: including what beer is, different styles, how to pour & serve beer, how to taste, pairing beer with food, and much more. The author, Mirella Amato, is the first non-US resident to become a Certified Master Cicerone, which is an impressive feat. That title, along with many others she holds, means she is extremely qualified on the subject of beer.

I think this book would be an excellent read and resource for someone who is starting to have an interest in beer and is eager to learn more. Amato presents the information in a way that is interesting, engaging, and easily understood. I'm looking forward to trying out a couple of the recipes for beer cocktails.  

This is my tenth book read for the 10th Annual Canadian Book Challenge.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Lisa's Review: Secret Path

Secret Path by Gord Downie & Jeff Lemire

My Rating: 3 of 5 stars

Secret Path is a graphic novel, written by Gord Downie and illustrated by Jeff Lemire. The text in the book consists of the lyrics to the ten songs on Gord's album of the same name.

The book & lyrics tell the true story of Chanie Wenjack. Chanie was forcibly taken away from his family to attend a residential school. At the age of 12, he escaped the residential school and died attempting to make his way home (no spoilers here, as these details are available on the book cover). The illustrations in this book are beautifully done - perfectly giving a haunting and uneasy feeling of how Chanie might have felt both being taken from his family and the loneliness of trying to make his way home.

This is my ninth book read for the 10th Annual Canadian Book Challenge.

Review: 206 Bones

206 Bones (Temperance Brennan, #12)206 Bones by Kathy Reichs
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Evil backstabbing co-workers and a very different structure from the usual Brennan novel typify this book. Part of it focuses on Brennan's ex-husband's extended family which as a reader of the series I found interesting though it seemed like padding to this mystery. The off-again status of Brennan's romance with Ryan was also a demerit for this installment.
This book counts toward two of my current challenges: it is set in Canada so it counts toward the 10th Canadian Book Challenge and it has a number in the title which is one of the categories for What's in a Name

Monday, May 22, 2017

Wide Sargasso Sea

Wide Sargasso SeaWide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Inspired by Jane Eyre, this novel in three parts is the story of Antoinette Cosway, a woman from the Caribbean who weds Rochester and ends up a prisoner in the attic of his bleak English country house.
The pictures that Rhys paints of the islands are lush and a bit frightening which sets the tone for the terrible things that go on. 
"Our garden was large and beautiful as that garden in the Bible--the tree of life grew there. But it had gone wild. The paths were overgrown and and a smell of dead flowers mixed with the fresh living smell. Underneath the tree ferns, tall as forest tree ferns, the light was green. Orchids flourished out of reach or for some reason not to be touches. One was snaking looking, another like an octopus with long thin brown tentacles bare of leaves handing from a twisted root. Twice a year the octopus orchid flowered--then not an inch of tentacle showed. It was a bell-shaped mass of white, mauve, deep purples, wonderful to see. The scent was very sweet and strong. I never went near it." (p. 19)
This book could count toward any of several categories for the Back to the Classics challenge: 20th century classic (published 1966), a gothic classic, or a classic by a woman author.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Review: Towards Zero

Towards Zero (Superintendent Battle, #5)Towards Zero by Agatha Christie
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Modern mysteries--books by Elizabeth George or PD James for example--typically start off with a series of snapshots of different people who will come into the investigation so you know each of the players by the time the crime occurs. Christie's books (and those of other golden age authors) don't typically follow this pattern. This one does. We see what all the people who end up on the spot when the murder occurs are doing before they come onto the scene. A very modern and well put together mystery.
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