Buy 3, Get 1 FREE at Chapters!

I spent much of the weekend bemoaning the fact that I was unable to partake of the Half Price Books 20% off sale since I live in Canada, and we don't have Half Price Books here. I watched, half of me happy for the fortune of others, half of me incredibly jealous, as you guys posted one #hpbhaul picture after another on Twitter. I sulked. I pouted. It wasn't pretty.

You can imagine how happy I was to discover this on my Facebook wall this morning! FREE BOOK! Of course you have to buy three to get it, and only in store, at full cover price... but still! A free book is a free book! So if you're north of the border and near a Chapters, head in and check out their shelves anytime between now and Sunday, June 3rd.

Happy shopping!


BBC Book Challenge

Who's not a sucker for a good list? And this one is pretty darn good. You might have seen this circulating on Facebook (where I lifted it from). Apparently the average person will only have read six of the books on this list of books compiled by the BBC. I was pleased to discover that I've finished over 30 of them (marked) and read at least part of some others.

What's your score?

1 Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen (x)
2 The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien (x)
3 Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte (x)
4 Harry Potter series – JK Rowling (x)
5 To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee (x)
6 The Bible – ()
7 Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte (x)
8 Nineteen Eighty Four – George Orwell ()
9 His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman ()
10 Great Expectations – Charles Dickens ()
11 Little Women – Louisa M Alcott (x)
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy ()
13 Catch 22 – Joseph Heller ()
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare ()
15 Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier ()
16 The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien (x)
17 Birdsong – Sebastian Faulk ()
18 Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger (x )
19 The Time Traveler’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger ()
20 Middlemarch – George Eliot ()
21 Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell ()
22 The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald ()
23 Bleak House – Charles Dickens (1/2)
24 War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy ( )
25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams ()
26 Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh ()
27 Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky ()
28 Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck ()
29 Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll (1/2)
30 The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame (x)
31 Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy ()
32 David Copperfield – Charles Dickens ()
33 Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis (x)
34 Emma – Jane Austen (x)
35 Persuasion – Jane Austen (x)
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – CS Lewis (x)
37 The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini ( )
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis De Bernieres ()
39 Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden ()
40 Winnie the Pooh – AA Milne (x)
41 Animal Farm – George Orwell (x)
42 The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown (x)
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez (x)
44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney – John Irving (x)
45 The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins ()
46 Anne of Green Gables – LM Montgomery (x)
47 Far From The Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy ()
48 The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood ()
49 Lord of the Flies – William Golding ()
50 Atonement – Ian McEwan ()
51 Life of Pi – Yann Martel ()
52 Dune – Frank Herbert ()
53 Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons ()
54 Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen (x)
55 A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth ()
56 The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon ()
57 A Tale Of Two Cities – Charles Dickens ()
58 Brave New World – Aldous Huxley ()
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night – Mark Haddon ()
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez (x)
61 Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck ()
62 Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov ()
63 The Secret History – Donna Tartt ()
64 The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold (x)
65 Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas ( )
66 On The Road – Jack Kerouac ()
67 Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy ()
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding (x)
69 Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie ()
70 Moby Dick – Herman Melville ()
71 Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens ()
72 Dracula – Bram Stoker ()
73 The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett (x)
74 Notes From A Small Island – Bill Bryson (x)
75 Ulysses – James Joyce ()
76 The Inferno – Dante ()
77 Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome (x)
78 Germinal – Emile Zola ()
79 Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray ()
80 Possession – AS Byatt ()
81 A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens (x)
82 Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell ()
83 The Color Purple – Alice Walker (x)
84 The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro ()
85 Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert ()
86 A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry ()
87 Charlotte’s Web – EB White ()
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven – Mitch Albom ()
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle ()
90 The Faraway Tree Collection – Enid Blyton ()
91 Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad (x)
92 The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Exupery (x)
93 The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks (x)
94 Watership Down – Richard Adams ()
95 A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole ()
96 A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute ()
97 The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas ()
98 Hamlet – William Shakespeare (x)
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl (x)
100 Les Miserables – Victor Hugo ()


Good News for Vancouver Book Lovers

If you live in Vancouver and are an avid reader, chances are you've spent many a blissful hour perusing the shelves of one of the many Book Warehouse locations scattered throughout the city. With a wide range of new books at bargain prices, it has long been a favourite book shopping destination.

A couple of months ago the news broke that the chain would be closing down its various locations one by one, leaving a gaping hole in the Vancouver bibliophile's world. Though the blow-out prices on remaining stock did something for the pain, I've gotta tell ya, I was not a happy camper.

And while this is still true for most of its locations, the store close to my workplace has been saved - by Black Bond Books, who will be taking over the store on June 1st (see picture below).  It won't be the same, but hey, I'll take any book store over another dollar store or coffee joint. After all, what good is coffee without a good book to read?


What the @#$% Are You Reading?

You may or may not have seen the article in US News last week about whether or not Young Adult books should have some sort of rating system on them. This discussion is largely centred around a study that was done revealing that much fiction intended for a youth audience contains profanity to various degrees. Some concerned consumers (and probably parents) are worried that their children could be consuming inappropriate language without their knowledge and that, short of pre-reading every single book that ends up in their kids' hands, they have no way of monitoring the content. The opposing camp says that this sort of rating system proposal smacks of censorship.

I've been thinking about this issue. Now, granted, I'm not a parent. It's quite possible I'd feel differently if I were (though I doubt it). I get that parents worry about what their kids are consuming in today's world - particularly from the media. A lot of those concerns are valid and very justified. But profanity in a book? Have you even SEEN a movie lately? Unless you hide them under a rock, your kids are going to be exposed to much worse than a few "F-bombs," as they put it. At least in this context they're learning how to spell their swear words properly. But maybe I'm biased by the fact that I grew up in a household that didn't sugar-coat much.



Birthdays Aren't All Bad...

As those of you who read my other blog, Mpirical, will know, it was my birthday a few days ago. Thank you, thank you, yes, I had a wonderful day. But more importantly, what is a birthday without books? J. got me this little gem - very recently released, it is the (sometimes true)  memoir of Jenny Lawson, better and more infamously known as The Bloggess.

Sidebar: if you have not yet checked her out, you cannot call yourself a blog afficionado or, with any accuracy, well-read. She's by turns incredible, fabulous, witty, irreverent, unfathomable and pee-your-pants hilarious. All my favourite things. Her blog has made me literally laugh out loud more times than I can count, and I have pased many a happy half hour (soon turned into hour, hour and a half, two hours....) perusing her archives.

So you can imagine my joy when I opened my present to discover an entire book of her entertaining exploits. I am currently experiencing that age-old dilemma: to charge right into an anticipated treat, wolf it down, and lick your lips in satisfaction OR to savour slowly and make it last. I'll keep you posted and a full review will follow either sooner or later, depending on which side of me wins out!

In addition to this I also got the paperback (and extended) edition of Banksy's Wall and Piece - yay! - and $40 to spend at Amazon. What should I spend it on? Thoughts?


Summer Reading!

There's something special about reading in the summer. Maybe it's the warm breezes and cool beverages, maybe it's just that the days are longer and slower. But whatever it is, it makes selecting a big 'ole pile of books to read over the next months even more exciting and satisfying. This is mine (so far):
  • My Friend the Mercenary - James Brabazon
  • The Sisters Brothers - Patrick DeWitt
  • Lowside of the Road: A Life of  Tom Waits - Barney Hoskyns
  • On Writing - Stephen King
  • Reading Women - Stephanie Staal
  • Fifty Shades of Grey - E L James
  • In the Garden of Beasts - Erik Larson
  • Jagger: Rebel, Rock Star, Rambler, Rogue - Marc Spitz
  • Nobody Likes You: Inside the Turbulent Life, Times and Music of Greenday - Marc Spitz
  • The Anthology of Rap - Adam Bradley and Andrew Dubois (eds.)
  • In One Person - John Irving

Of course, some of these will be abandoned, others will be traded out, and, I'm sure, many will be added!

What are you reading this summer?



(Please note: Because this review covers a trilogy of books, it required spoilers. Please read at your own risk!)

I came late to the Hunger Games. I am one of those who watched the movie - then figured maybe I'd give the books a go. But once I got started, I proceeded to zip through all three of them in less than two weeks. 

Suzanne Collins creates a world in which 12 districts, each producing a different type of raw material, are run by a central, affluent Capital. In this post-apocalyptic world, each district is forced to sacrifice two children - one boy and one girl - between the ages of 12 and 18 once a year to the Hunger Games. The Hunger Games are a punishment and reminder of the rebellion that led to massive death and destruction of the planet, and is also intended to keep the subjects in line.

The Hunger Games themselves are a brutal fight to the death, with only one of the 24 young men or women coming out alive. They take place in an artificial environment created inside a domed arena - which can be anything from forest to desert wasteland. In many cases the environment proves to be the most brutal aggressor, making the Games a war of attrition more than combat.

Shocked and terrified yet? You should be. It's every bit as disturbing and upsetting as it sounds.

In the first book, we meet the heroine, young Katniss Everdeen, who volunteers in the place of her younger sister. To avoid spoilers, I won't tell you what happens next (read the book!), but as you can imagine, most of the book is devoted to her struggle for survival, made more complex by her friendship with the other contestant from District 12, a young man named Peeta Mellark. Part of the complexity is that Peeta has feelings for Katniss - and over time, Katniss herself begins to suspect that she returns his interest.

Now here's where you probably want to stop reading if you haven't read the books. The second book begins with the fallout of the very dramatic ending to the Hunger Games. Rioting has started in some of the districts, particularly Rue's home. Her death sparked a reaction, and Katniss quickly ends up at the centre of a movement that threatens the very foundations on which the Capital has built up its power.

President Snow uses the Quarter Quell - the 25th anniversary of the Games in which the rules can be changed - to draw names from the existing pool of champions rather than the usual 12-18 year old population. Predictably, both Peeta and Katniss must return to the arena to fight for their lives once again. The plot twists in this book will leave readers dizzy - if anything the climax is even more dramatic than the first book.

The final book in the series sees most of the Districts embroiled in fighting against the Capital, not only to end the atrocity of the Games, but to rectify the vast gap between the affluence of the Capital and the poverty of the surrounding Districts. After the big reveal of District 13's existence, this is where Katniss finds herself when she awakes from her traumatic experience in the second Games. Her own home has been all but destroyed, and Peeta has been captured. She has become a symbol of hope and freedom behind which the citizens of the District have thrown their allegiance, and she struggles with this responsibility while trying to make sense of her circumstances and find out what has happened to Peeta.

The only criticism I have about the books is the rushed endings of all three, and Katniss' tendency to take a nap whenever the most important events are happening. Because the books are written entirely from her perspective, when she's out of commission, the reader misses the action along with her. It seems that she somehow winds up unconscious at the end of every single book, and we have to wait until she wakes up, gets through the grogginess, and then gets an abbreviated account of what actually happened from those who were there. If the book switched between various perspectives - notably Gale (Katniss' childhood friend and other possible love interest) and Peeta, but also possibly her sister, Primrose, and mentor, Hamish - we would benefit from behind the scenes info of Peeta's captivity and the events happening in the Districts when she is in the Games.

This would have not only provided a richer plot, but also helped us get to know other characters. Without it Gale is a vague, two dimensional character and we miss much of the context to the events that occur. Not to mention missing the major events whenever Katniss is inconveniently napping. I found this incredibly frustrating. I won't say it ruined the books for me, but it definitely took away from my enjoyment and left me feeling frustrated and robbed of climactic resolution.

Despite this lack of perspective sharing, I do think these books are worth taking the time to read - particularly since they don't take long. If you're looking for a page-turner that will pass the time while you're traveling or on vacation - or even just stuck inside on a rainy afternoon - I highly recommend giving these a try!

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