4.30.2015

BOOK THOUGHTS ON THURSDAY | WHAT MAKES OR BREAKS A BOOK?


The world of books is never boring. Every week (well, most weeks) I'll discuss a different topic related to books, often inspired by or in response to what's going on in the online book community (or something I've seen another blogger talk about). I call this Book Thoughts on Thursday. Feel free to weigh in with your own thoughts in the comments, or even write your own post on the topic and share the link with me! 

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There are a lot of different parts to any story. All are important, all contribute to the overall experience of reading.

This has been on my mind this week in particular, because I read a book that forced me to consider how the different elements form my impression of a book, and how a perceived weakness in one of them affects how much I enjoy or value the book.

The book I'm referring to is Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill. If you haven't heard of it, this is a humble book in size, but its format requires more time from the reader than you might expect.

It's the story of a marriage - more specifically, it's the story of an unfaithful marriage. In this respect, it's not an original premise. But the format in which the story is told - now that is original.

It's told from the first person perspective of the wife, and so we get to know her idiosyncrasies very well. We see how her mind works, we bear witness to her emotions as she deals with the impossible situation she finds herself in. But even though we're in her head, she still feels distant. It's written in a very flowing narrative style that can at times be a bit confusing, but is also dynamic and interesting.

In summary this is a book that has:
  • A slightly boring and decidedly unoriginal plot
  • Characters that don't elicit as much sympathy as they could have
  • A format that is beautifully experimental and that colours the narrative
  • A stream-of-consciousness style that draws parallels between thoughts and plot points

Some of these things work, others fall flat. So how  does each of these factors weigh in on the reader's overall impression of the book? Does the somewhat clichéd plot ruin it? Does the style make it overly confusing?

Obviously this is something that will be subjective - every reader has their preferences and interests that impact their reading experience. But for me, I had a hard time deciding what to think of this book because my dislike of certain elements was contradicted by my enjoyment of others. I had to think about whether I needed a more interesting plot, or whether I could decide the book was great without it. I had to decide if my lack of feeling for the characters was a deal breaker or if I was okay with being a passive observer.

To be totally honest, I'm still mulling it over. But one thing I am sure of, that this book confirmed, is that I don't need every area of a book to be strong in order for me to consider it a great book or in order to recommend and enjoy it. That said, it's very rare for me to give a book 10/10 if it isn't at least somewhat strong in all areas (and exceptional in one or two).

This book is one that probably shouldn't work, but does. The style and format make a basic plot interesting and original, and the simplicity of the plot allows for a complex style that otherwise would have confused it. I think the combination of factors that played into this book were in balance, and that the weaker aspects were compensated for by the stronger.

It's still not my favourite book. The fact that I didn't connect to the characters mattered to me, there were parts where I found myself confused, and I've got my own personal preferences that made this a harder read for me. But it still got a respectable 7/10 rating from me, and at least two of those stars were for the format and style - things which saved the book from mediocrity.

So my conclusion is that no, I don't need every element to be amazing, or even very good. I can criticize some areas of a book and still consider it good. But I'm curious to know what you all think.

Do you find that you're flexible on the quality of all areas of a book? Or are you okay with strong in some areas and weak in others? Are there deal-breakers - as in you'll be flexible on writing style but if you don't like the characters the book is dead to you? Share your thoughts in the comments!

(For further reading on Dept. of Speculation that touches on this issue, check out The Socratic Salon's recent post.)

4.29.2015

BOOK REVIEW | NOTHING LIKE LOVE - SABRINA RAMNANAN


A sparkling, witty and confident debut from a rising Canadian star whose Trinidadian roots and riotous storytelling heritage inform her completely delightful novel.

It is 1974 in the town of Chance, Trinidad--home to a colourful cast of cane farmers, rum-drinkers, scandal-mongers . . . and a bright 18-year-old schoolgirl named Vimla Narine. After passing her A-levels with extraordinary results and accepting the coveted teaching post at Saraswati Hindu school, Vimla is caught with the village pundit's son, Krishna Govind. At night. Holding hands. By morning, even the village vagrant has heard the news and the Govinds and Narines find themselves at the heart of Chance's most delicious disgrace since a woman chased her cheating husband from the district with a rolling pin.

Very quickly, Vimla's teaching post is rescinded, her mother goes on strike from everything, her father seeks solace in the rum shop and Vimla is confined to her home. While Vimla waits for Krishna to rescue her, Krishna's father exiles his boy to Tobago with a suitcase of Hindu scriptures and a command: Krishna will become a man of God. It is his duty.

Just when Vimla thinks her fate couldn't be worse, her best friend, Minty, brings word that Krishna has become betrothed to the beautiful Chalisa Shankar. And Chalisa wants to meet Vimla. Together, Vimla and Minty devise a scheme to win Krishna back that involves blackmailing a neighbour, conspiring with Chalisa, secret trysts in cane fields--and unearthing surprising truths that could change Vimla's, Krishna's and Chalisa's lives forever.
- Goodreads


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Set in Trinidad in the 1970s, Nothing Like Love seamlessly layers place and time to create a dynamic setting for a passionate love story. The story centres on two young lovers, Vimla and Krishna, who are the very definition of star-crossed.

After the couple are caught sneaking out to the cane fields in the middle of the night, Vimla's reputation is destroyed and Krishna's family set up an arranged marriage for him with a rich, beautiful young woman called Chalisa from a nearby town.

Neither Chalisa nor Krishna want to be married, but as soon as the marriage is set, Krishna is sent to stay with his aunt in Tobago until the details of the wedding can be arranged. Vimla is left behind, not knowing whether Krishna is still in love with her or whether he intends to comply with his family's wishes and marry Chalisa.

As she waits, the town around her (a town called Chance) hums with rumours - not only about her, but about her parents, her neighbours and about Krishna's new fiancee. Chance is a town that runs on gossip, and everyone has secrets. We become privy to all of them, and get to watch in fascination as scandals brew and break on all sides.

Meanwhile Chalisa is straining against her prescribed role and trying to find a way out of the arranged marriage. What she really wants is to pursue her dream of becoming a famous singer and dancer - and maybe even get to be with the man she really cares for.

Though love stories aren't typically my favourite, I really enjoyed this one. I loved how the characters were so colourful. Even the most unlikeable of this cast cannot be faulted for being boring.

I also couldn't get enough of Ramnanan's Trinidad. Her descriptions of the country - its flora and culture - were so lively that at times I could almost smell the flowers and feel the sun on my face. If you're one for literary tourism, this is a book you'll want to pick up and save for a rainy day.

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**Thanks to Random House Canada for providing a review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!**

Book Title: Nothing Like Love
Author: Sabrina Ramnanan
Series: No
Edition: Hardback
Published By: Doubleday Canada
Released: April 21, 2015
Genre: Fiction, Character-Driven
Pages: 424
Date Read: April 12-25, 2015
Rating: 7/10

Buy the book:

4.28.2015

MY WEEK ON WEDNESDAY | #10




My Week On Wednesday is a weekly link-up post in which I share with you what I've been reading, what I'm reading next, and any other bookish stuff I enjoyed in the past week! (Click on book images to view Goodreads page.)

Just shelved:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22716397-nothing-like-love?ac=1https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/20613761-citizen?ac=1https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/20335765-dept-of-speculation

All three of these were excellent, but they were all very different. Both from one another and from anything else I've read. I actually finished all three of these on Saturday for Readathon, which isn't as many as I'd hoped, but not bad!

Currently reading:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/24972194-on-the-move?ac=1https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22609396-the-children-s-crusade?ac=1

I'm about halfway through both of these and hoping to finish them up this week. On the Move (out today) is a creative memoir by Oliver Sacks, a writer and doctor whose life is as interesting as his work. The Children's Crusade is  family epic, very much character-driven and highlighting the complexities of family relations.

Up next:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/16280081-the-unlikely-hero-of-room-13b?ac=1https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18273521-life-after-life

I've started both of these and am very eager to dive back into them once I've finished my current reads! Cait over at Paper Fury is a huge fan of The Unlikely Hero, so obviously I need to read it ASAP. And the sequel to Kate Atkinson's Life After Life is out next week (!) so I'm trying to finish this up in time to read A God In Ruins as soon as I can get my hands on it!

In other news:

http://24hourreadathon.com/

I participated in Dewey's 24 Hour Readathon on Saturday,  and while I had some issues focusing and had to pause to watch the hockey game (my beloved Canucks sadly got knocked out of the playoffs), I still managed to finish three books and spend about 8 hours reading. AND not only that, but I won a prize! I rarely win anything, so you can imagine how thrilled I am! You can check out my Readathon post to see how I did here.

What about you guys? Did you participate in Readathon? How much reading did you get done? How was the rest of your week? Link up or share in the comments!

TOP TEN TUESDAY | FUNNY AND INSPIRING CHARACTERS


This week's Top Ten Tuesday on The Broke and the Bookish is: Top Ten Books That Feature Characters Who ____. I get to fill in the blank myself, and hmmmm. I think I'm going to divide this into two, because I can't think of one category that'll get me to ten. The first half will be "Have A Great Sense of Humour." The second half will be "Made Me Feel Better About the World."

Humorous Characters

http://giphy.com/search/fred-weasley

Fred and George Weasley 
(The Harry Potter books by J.K. Rowling)

I love these two. I was a more timid child, so of course I love characters who aren't afraid to make a mess and get in trouble as long as there's some laughs to be had. Plus, as an only child, I always wanted a sibling (preferably a twin) to play with growing up.

http://rebloggy.com/post/1k-spoilers-gif-the-fault-in-our-stars-fishingboatproceeds-tfios-augustus-water/87605371900

Augustus Waters 
(The Fault In Our Stars by John Green)

If you haven't met Augustus yet, well, isn't it about time you did? Of course, there's a lot of romance in this story. But what made it brilliant was that it was really, really funny. I loved his interactions with Isaac in particular.
 
http://foreveryoungadult.com/2010/04/15/they-shouldve-called-this-book-tiny-cooper-tiny-cooper/

Tiny Cooper
(Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan)

I haven't read Hold Me Closer yet, but a fair number of the lines and scenes that made me laugh in this book involved Tiny.

http://www.worldofbooks.com/the-woman-who-went-to-bed-for-a-year-by-sue-townsend-518549.html

Adrian Mole
(The Adrian Mole books by Sue Townsend)

I loved this series when I was a kid. Tragicomedy at its best! If you haven't read Adrian Mole's diaries yet, you're in for a treat. 


Mark Watney
(The Martian by Andy Weir)

I cannot wait for this movie! I think what made this book for me was the humour. Yes, it's got a great premise and there's plenty of tension and suspense (will he find a way to sustain himself? Will he make it back to the Hab? Will he blow himself up? Endless drama!), but it's the personality of the main character that made this book one that will appeal to wider audiences.

Characters Who Made Me Feel Better About the World

http://emmajudy.blogspot.ca/2013/07/9-questions-and-answers.html

Anne Shirley
(The Green Gables series by L.M. Montgomery)

I've been reading the Anne of Green Gables books for the GreenGablesReadalong, and looking at the world through Anne's eyes has reminded me of not only the wonders of childhood imagination, but of the magic that can be found in the simplest of things - a sunset, a summer breeze, a kind word. There's wonder everywhere if you decide to see it.

http://www.viewster.com/movie/1198-53381-000/i-capture-the-castle/

Cassandra Mortmain
(I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith)

This book was one of the oddest and most interesting I read as a child. The idea of growing up in a ramshackle castle with such a cast of characters as these... well how could you not see the world as an endlessly interesting place?

http://weheartit.com/entry/group/55024003

Sara Crewe
(A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett)

It's high time I re-read this book since I barely remember it (I was seven last time I read it, after all), but I do remember the feeling of it. This little girl's strength of character in the most difficult of circumstances definitely set a good example for my younger self.  

https://www.pinterest.com/explore/library-quotes/

Matilda Wormwood
(Matilda by Roald Dahl)

I know, Matilda makes it into a lot of my lists. But I cannot discuss inspiring characters without her. Not only did she stand up to people literally twice as strong as she was, but she managed to create what she needed in an environment barren of affection and stimulation. She taught me resilience and resourcefulness, and this book was vital to my childhood.


Willem Ragnarsson
(A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara)

The friendship between Jude and Willem is one of the things that makes this book bearable - and makes the world seem like it's not all bad. 

That's it for another Tuesday! But I'd love to hear your favourite humorous and inspiring characters in the comments - I know there are plenty I missed! Happy reading, all!

4.26.2015

THE SUNDAY REVIEW | GOD HELP THE CHILD - TONI MORRISON


The new novel from Nobel laureate Toni Morrison.
Spare and unsparing,
God Help the Child is a searing tale about the way childhood trauma shapes and misshapes the life of the adult. At the center: a woman who calls herself Bride, whose stunning blue-black skin is only one element of her beauty, her boldness and confidence, her success in life; but which caused her light-skinned mother to deny her even the simplest forms of love until she told a lie that ruined the life of an innocent woman, a lie whose reverberations refuse to diminish . . . Booker, the man Bride loves and loses, whose core of anger was born in the wake of the childhood murder of his beloved brother . . . Rain, the mysterious white child, who finds in Bride the only person she can talk to about the abuse she's suffered at the hands of her prostitute mother . . . and Sweetness, Bride's mother, who takes a lifetime to understand that "what you do to children matters. And they might never forget." - Goodreads

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There's something special about how Toni Morrison writes. She has a particular skill for writing prose that seems, at first glance, to be very simple. The language she uses isn't complex; her words are short and utilitarian. Her delivery is blunt and to the point. And yet. 

By the time I was halfway through this book I realized that her language wasn't simple, rather it was efficient. Economical. Exactly what was needed to provide maximum impact and not a flowery syllable more. This uncomplicated prose evokes a sense of vulnerability when it comes to her characters that cuts deep and bleeds you dry.

This book isn't long - it's only 178 pages (with wide-spaced text). So it's not a huge commitment and shouldn't take you long to get through. But it will be with you for long after you close its covers and place it back on the shelf with a lingering look. 

The book centres on Bride, the blacker than black daughter of light-skinned parents. Her mother and father both react badly to her dark skin - her father refuses to believe she's his and leaves, her mother avoids any physical contact with Bride. This upbringing leaves her both emotionally stunted, and driven to prove her worth. 

Years later, she is a successful businesswoman with an exotic beauty that draws attention wherever she goes. She is in a relationship with a man she enjoys, but knows very little about - exactly how she likes it. Then one day he dumps her and leaves, giving her no explanation. This is the first in a chain of events that will force her to confront her past and the indelible marks it left on her, and to really consider the shallowness with which she has been living her life.

The chapters swap perspective between Bride, the people in her life - among them her best friend, ex-boyfriend, mother - and a third person omniscient viewpoint that takes over when their stories cross. Through these different perspectives we learn what motivates the choices each makes, how they view Bride (and how she thinks they view her) and how the main characters evolve. 

God Help the Child, while short enough to be devoured in a single sitting, requires more attention than that. Despite Morrison's straightforward style, there are lines and passages that are so poetically evocative that they stand out in sharp relief against her prose and take your breath away. These passages will force you to stop, re-read, and revel in their beauty. 

If you can't tell by now, I'm blown away by this book. It is one of those rare reading experiences that isn't quite comfortable, isn't quite what you expect it to be, and isn't quite a happy story... but it will make you feel privileged to read it. This book may be fictional, but it holds more truth and observes more about human nature than anything you'll find in a work of non-fiction.

Some of my favourite quotes from the book:
"I don't think many people appreciate silence or realize that it is as close to music as you can get." - p. 69

"The moon was a toothless grin and even the stars, seen through the tree limb that had fallen like a throttling arm across the windshield, frightened her. The piece of sky she could glimpse was a dark carpet of gleaming knives pointed at her and aching to be released." - p. 83
"Whether he was lying under her body, hovering above it or holding her in his arms, her blackness thrilled him. Then he was certain that he not only held the night, he owned it, and if the night he held in his arms was not enough, he could always see starlight in her eyes." - p. 133
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**Thanks to Random House Canada for providing a review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!**

Book Title: God Help the Child
Author: Toni Morrison
Series: No
Edition: Hardback
Published By: Knopf Canada
Released: April 21, 2015
Genre: Fiction, Character-Driven
Pages: 178
Date Read: April 17-21, 2015
Rating: 10/10

Buy the book:

4.25.2015

DEWEY'S 24 HOUR READATHON | PROGRESS REPORT

Good morning and welcome to Dewey's 24 Hour Readathon! At this point the Readathon is about 4 hours old, and I'm just getting started (I'm not a morning person. Sue me.). I've got my cozy socks, my comfy chair and a whole stack of fantastic books just waiting for me to dive in!


Opening Meme:
  1. What fine part of the world are you reading from today? The west coast of Canada.
  2. Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to? Hmm. I'm really excited to get further into Life After Life, but I'm probably going to stick with some of the shorter reads. Definitely looking forward to Citizen and The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B!
  3. Which snack are you most looking forward to? I've been having tummy troubles (ended up in hospital this time last week), so right now I'm on a really restricted diet. I did make some digestible soup yesterday, though, so it'll be nice to have something other than jello and apple sauce and plain crackers!
  4. Tell us a little something about yourself! I'm a huge fan of quirky, witty, humorous books. I'm also probably going to be taking some time off this evening to watch the 'Nucks vs. Flames game, because that's pretty important too! In addition to reading voraciously, I love TV (Criminal Minds, Secrets & Lies, Scandal, Nashville, Chicago Fire, Madam Secretary, Elementary, Big Bang Theory, iZombie... etc.). I also have three furry kittens who will likely be my snoozing companions today!
  5. If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? If this is your first read-a-thon, what are you most looking forward to? I had planned to have a real-life reading buddy, but unfortunately a bad back intervened. I'm going to be chatting online with a few of my blogger buddies today, though, and I think actually knowing other readers who are participating will make it extra fun!

Mid-Event Survey:
  1. What are you reading right now? Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill.
  2. How many books have you read so far? Finished two, now on my third.
  3. What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the Read-a-thon? Hoping I'll do a better job of focusing! So far I've found myself having trouble and getting distracted easily!
  4. Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with those? To be honest, I've mostly been interrupting myself. I've never been able to control me.
  5. What surprises you most about the Read-a-thon, so far? Hmmm. I haven't really had many surprises this time around - maybe just how hard it's been to buckle down. I've had a bit of a rough week, and it's affecting my concentration, so I guess it's just bad timing! Here's hoping I manage to get it together for the second half!
I'll be updating my progress throughout the day here, so if you're wondering how I'm doing, check back! My stats:
  • Books I've read part of so far: 5
  • Books I've finished so far: Nothing Like Love by Sabrina Ramnanan, Citizen by Claudie Rankine, Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill, part of The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B by Teresa Toten and Men Explain Things To Me by Rebecca Solnit
  • Total number of books finished: 3
  • Total hours spent reading: 8 (or somewhere around there - lots of stopping and starting!)
If you don't know what the Readathon is, or if you want some veteran advice, check out my tips post here. How's your Readathon going? Share in the comments, or better yet, hop over to Twitter and send me a Tweet!

STACKING THE SHELVES | #69


Time to look at the books I added to my shelves this week with Stacking the Shelves hosted by Tynga's Reviews! Not necessarily books I bought - also includes books I borrowed, was given or otherwise ended up with. Weeks I don't buy any books I'll scramble around my shelves and find some I haven't shared in an StS post yet!


The Room - Jonas Karlsson
The Walls Around Us - Nova Ren Suma


Disclaimer - Renee Knight
A Reunion of Ghosts - Judith Claire Mitchell
Spinster - Kate Bolick


I cannot even tell you how tempted I am to abandon my required reading to dive into these! I've heard brilliant things about all five and am particularly excited for Spinster and Disclaimer.

Now, as you probably know, we're currently a couple of hours into Dewey's 24 Hour Readathon! So there's a chance I might get to these soon after all. I'd love to hear if you've read any of these - and if you're participating in the Readathon, what you're reading! If you're new to the Readathon, you can read my tips here. Happy reading, guys!

4.24.2015

DEWEY'S 24-HOUR READATHON | HOW TO READATHON LIKE A PRO

 

It's nearly here! Dewey's 24 Hour Readathon is coming up on Saturday April 25th (AKA tomorrow!). It only happens twice a year, so I spend a lot of time (about 6 months) counting down to the next one.

In case you're new to this wonderful bookish event, Dewey's 24 Hour Readathon is pretty much exactly what it sounds like - a chance to join readers around the world as they set aside a full day to do nothing (or nearly nothing) but read. You can join in for the full stretch, for your normal waking day, or even just for a few hours - whatever time you can spare.

In addition to the reading, there are hourly challenges and plenty of online activity to make you feel like part of something big. And if you sign up as a reader, you can even request cheerleaders who will stop by and cheer you on!

I normally spend about 12 hours reading, and don't do many hourly challenges because the internet is irresistible and if I let myself spend too long on it, I won't get back off again. But I will have a running post that I'll be updating with my progress, as well as some updates that I'll be posting on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

This will be my third Readathon, so I've had two chances to make mistakes. On the plus side, you can learn from them. Here's my roundup of things you need to know, and some useful tips that might help you make it through unscathed!

Useful Links:

Find out when the Readathon starts in your time zone here.
Sign up as a reader (with your blog, Tumblr, Twitter account, Instagram or YouTube) here.
Sign up as a cheerleader here.
And if you've got some prizes you'd like to generously donate, you can do that here.
Dewey's 24 Hour Redathon is on Twitter, Goodreads, Instagram and Facebook.

Important tips on reading material:

The first time I participated in the Readathon, I got a bit carried away. I picked mostly long or more challenging books. I figured with that much time at my disposal, it was a good time to really dig in. Which sounded great in theory, but in practice I discovered it was hard to stick with one story for that length of time. It was also hard to be on my first book (going at what felt like a snail's pace) while I watched one Tweet after another zoom past with status updates for Readathon-ers who'd read 2, 3, 4 or even more books! So I re-thought my strategy.

How to pick Readathon books:

  • Short is sweet. It's great for morale to zip through your first book by the end of hour one, your second by hour three and your third by hour five. Closing one book after another helps keep you motivated - plus, you don't end up feeling stuck in one story. It's okay to have some longer ones in the mix, but be prepared to dip in and out of them, and try to pick fun, light reads.
  • Variety is the spice of life. So you've got a few historical fiction books languishing on your TBR. Or there's a whole stack of mysteries you've been planning to read - and looking forward to. But what if you settle in to read and discover you're not in the mood for corsets? Or that the mysteries aren't thrilling you? It's good to have a few different types of books to choose from rather than a whole stack that fit the same genre and/or theme. Choose a selection of: short stories or essays, graphic novels, young adult fiction, something funny, something serious and something suspenseful. Even audiobooks can be a great change of pace - you can play one while you go for a walk or get some stuff done around the house if you're getting restless.
  • The more the merrier. I like having a big stack of books picked out - even though I know I'll only get through a few of them. It's exciting to see the colourful spines smiling at me, and it makes me feel like I've got a lot to look forward to!
  • Life is short. Why stick with a book you're just not feeling? Acknowledging your mood is vital during Readathon. If you try to stick with a book that you're just not into, you'll slow down, it'll start to feel like a slog, you'll be distracted by anything going on around you, and you'll even start clock-watching. If, for whatever reason, you're just not into the book you're reading, move on to the next one. You can always go back later!

Survival tips:
  • Clean your house and stock up on snacks. It can be hard to concentrate if you're looking at the dust bunnies collecting in the corner or trying to figure out what you can make out of whatever's left in the back of your fridge. Sort it out ahead of time and you're all set!
  • Careful with the caffeine. Too soon and you'll crash. Too late and you won't be able to stop when it's time to call it! Likewise resist the urge to pour yourself a cocktail unless you're nearly done because that's a quick way to a long nap!
  • Figure out what schedule works best for you. Particularly if this is your first time at the rodeo, you don't have to start at the very beginning (5AM?? Are you even serious right now?) if you're not a morning person. You also don't have to prop your eyes open with toothpicks if you'd really rather call it a night. If you can read for the full 24, great. If not, or if you have other real life things you can't get out of, no big deal! Anything is better than nothing. 
  • Take breaks. Check out what's happening on Twitter. Do a few laps around the block. Make a cup of tea. Post an update. Breaks aren't cheating - they're necessary.
  • Find a Readathon buddy. Whether you spend part of the day at a friend's house or have an online reading buddy, it's great to have someone you can interact with periodically. You can cheer each other on, and when you feel like you've made a promise to someone to see something through, that can often help you stick with it when your resolve is faltering!
  • Be comfy. Wear something you will be able to relax in (even if it's pyjamas!) and get yourself a cozy pillow and nice fluffy blanket. The more comfortable you are physically, the easier it'll be to lose yourself in your book!
  • Change the scene. If you're feeling uncomfortable or keep getting distracted, try changing locations. Last year I scouted several comfy spots around the house - some I regularly read in (my armchair, my bed) others I don't (the bed in the spare room, the dining room - even the curve in the staircase at one point) - and I also wandered down to my local Starbucks for a while. Sometimes a new location can refresh your mind.
  • Don't beat yourself up. If you can't focus and keep getting distracted, don't feel bad. This is meant to be fun - not feel like homework. So what if you only end up logging a cumulative three hours? If you enjoyed it, and if it's more reading than you usually get to do in a Saturday, call it a win.

How to get involved:

https://twitter.com/Backlist_Books/status/591713399412690945

There's a lot going on online during the readathon, which means there are a lot of ways you can get interactive!
  • The first and easiest is to join in on Twitter. Tag @readathon and use the hashtag #readathon to become part of the conversation and check in on what everyone else is up to. You can post pictures of what you're reading, share status updates and even chat with hosts and fellow participants.
  • Post updates on your blog, YouTube channel, Tumblr or Insagram. You can either create one blog post that you go in and update throughout the day, do multiple posts, or post a roundup at the end of the readathon - whatever suits your style. You can also pre-record some YouTube content, or post short videos as you go along. And don't forget to snap some selfies (or pictures of your cats, as the case may be) for Tumblr and Instagram!
  • Check out Hourly Challenges and Prizes. I haven't personally participated much in these (if I get too involved in online activities I find it hard to get back to reading), so I'll direct you to the Readathon website for more info!

Alright, that's it for my lessons learned! I know lots of you are veteran Readathoners (most have probably done it more times than I have), so this is where I invite you to share your advice in the comments. What did I miss? Anything I didn't think of? If you wrote a Readathon prep post, link me to it!

Good luck, readers - I'll be seeing you throughout the day tomorrow!

4.23.2015

BOOK REVIEW | BLOOD ON SNOW - JO NESBØ



From the internationally acclaimed author of the Harry Hole novels—a new, electrifying stand-alone thriller set in Oslo in the 1970s: the story of an unusually complicated contract killer—the perfectly sympathetic antihero—that is, as well, an edgy, almost lyrical meditation on death and love.This is the story of Olav: an extremely talented "fixer" whose unexpected capacity for love is as far-reaching as his talent for murder. He works for Oslo's crime kingpin, "fixing" anyone who causes him trouble. But it's becoming clear to Olav that the more you know about your boss's business, the more your boss might want you fixed yourself, especially if you've fallen in love with his wife.... - Goodreads


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This was my first Jo Nesbø book, an author I've been meaning to check out since my friend Katrin (who is an expert in mysteries and thrillers, particularly those of Scandinavian origin) recommended him. I'm actually really glad this book served as my introduction.

It's not a long book - in fact, it only took a few hours to read. It's also not your typical thriller. Don't get me wrong, it's definitely.... thrilling. But it's got a few interesting traits that set it apart.

The first being that it's written from the perspective of the hit man. Not only that, but we're allowed a first person view of his thoughts and emotions, making us root for and feel connected to him. He's the perfect sympathetic bad guy, the villain with a sensitive heart, the hit man with one fatal vulnerability... and his character is intriguing to become acquainted with.

The simplicity of the language Nesbø employs (or perhaps that is chosen by the translator) is another facet of this story that is in keeping with the character. Olav is dyslexic. He is an avid reader, but has trouble placing words in sequence, and finds writing to be particularly challenging. I don't know what dyslexia feels like, so I could be wrong, but in my imagination the way Nesbø employs language seemed to mirror this vulnerability, at the same time as it served to represent Olav's personality and lifestyle.

I always find it interesting to read translated works. The way words are placed, the pace and style of the language, and the very marrow of the story seem to represent a culture very different from what I experience when reading books written in my native language. It's not the same in all translations, but I do find that translated works from certain geographical areas share a common vibe. I'll be interested to read more - not only of Nesbø's work, but of other Scandanavian authors - to see if the feeling evoked by Nesbø's writing style is influenced by his cultural background.

I definitely got more than I expected from this book. For its genre, this book holds a rare beauty, and its characters have stuck with me well past the end of the story. It wasn't overly scary, so if you're a marshmallow, you can probably take it. But if you like your murders bloody... well, you won't be disappointed. This would make a great vacation read, or an excellent book to polish off on a rainy afternoon. I'm officially recommending it!

Spoiler Review: Click Here to View/Hide Spoiler Review

Read if:

You enjoy simple plots with depth of character, and unexpected sweetness hidden under brutal violence. You don't mind characters who are neither angel nor demon, and if you like realistic endings.

If you enjoyed this book, you might like:
  • BOOK SERIES: Department Q novels by Jussi Adler-Olsen. Another Scandanavian author, and a misanthropic main character. The tone and perspective are different, but the style of writing is similar.
  • BOOK SERIES: The Millenium Trilogy by Stieg Larsson. Has a similar gruff vibe and is by another Scandanavian author. I haven't finished these books, but from the bit I have read, it will likely appeal to Jo Nesbø fans.
  • BOOK & MOVIE: The Drop by Dennis Lehane. It has a similar vibe - the loner who is capable of handling himself, but underneath has a surprisingly squishy heart.
  • MOVIE: The Professional. Stars Natalie Portman in the early days and a beloved house plant. Oh, also Jean Reno as a quiet yet sympathetic hit man and Gary Oldman proving yet again what an excellent actor he is by making us thoroughly despise him.


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**Thanks to Random House Canada for providing a review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!**

Book Title: Blood On Snow
Author: Jo Nesbø
Series: No
Edition: Hardback
Published By: Random House Canada
Released: April 7, 2015
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Fiction, Translation
Pages: 224
Date Read: April 11-12, 2015
Rating: 8/10

Buy the book:

4.22.2015

MY WEEK ON WEDNESDAY | #9


My Week On Wednesday is a weekly link-up post in which I share with you what I've been reading, what I'm reading next, and any other bookish stuff I enjoyed in the past week! (Click on book images to view Goodreads page.)

Just shelved:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22822858-a-little-lifehttps://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23602473-god-help-the-child

A Little Life was epic. Both in length and content. I read it with Julianne, and the two of us were reduced to blubbering messes by the end. This book is one that will stick with you long after you finish reading the last page. I don't know if I'll ever have the stamina to re-read it, but honestly I don't think I'll have to. Its characters came so much to life while I was reading that I feel like I actually know them. You should definitely read this book. (But stock up on Kleenex first, and have a friend standing by to provide hugs.)

God Help the Child was my first Toni Morrison book, and I was blown away by it. Her skill as a writer is second to none, and though this wasn't a long or complex book, every word hit its mark. Definitely a great book club read!

Currently reading:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22716397-nothing-like-lovehttps://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22609396-the-children-s-crusadehttps://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18273521-life-after-life

I'm primarily reading Nothing Like Love, but I'm also dipping into The Children's Crusade and Life After Life. All three are great so far, and I'm looking forward to continuing!

Up next:


As you all probably know, this week is Readathon week. I haven't quite decided yet which books will be in my Readathon TBR, but these are all possibilities!

In other news:

You may have noticed that I missed a post last Sunday and have been a little late with subsequent posts. I had a little unplanned visit to the hospital this weekend (I seem to be okay now), which derailed my reading and posting somewhat. Bear with me - I'm working on catching up! I should be back on track by next week.

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Because I haven't been on the computer much this week and am out of the loop, instead of including bookish links or cool bookish stuff I found on the internet, I'm going to turn it around and ask you guys what I missed this week! Share links or ramblings in the comments!

4.21.2015

TOP TEN TUESDAY | FAVOURITE AUTHORS


This week's Top Ten Tuesday on The Broke and the Bookish is: Top Ten Favourite Authors. It's difficult to narrow this down. It's easy to confuse a favourite book with a favourite author - but loving an author means loving more than just one of their books. Usually. Except occasionally when you read a book and you love it so intensely that you will be forever grateful to that author for sharing it even if they never write another word. So my list includes a little of both. (It also exceeds the allotted ten, sorry!)

John Irving
http://john-irving.com/http://www.marshall.edu/LIBRARY/bannedbooks/books/prayerforowen.asp

The first book I read by John Irving was A Prayer for Owen Meany, which I read in grade 11. It wasn't an easy read - I remember there being a few times I nearly gave up. Though I don't remember the details of the book (it's been more than 15 years, after all), I remember the feeling of it. I remember how it stuck with me, how it inhabited my mind for years after I finished it.

Irving has an ability, rare amongst even the best authors, to very slowly tease out a story so you don't notice at first as it begins to shift. Until at some point you realize the book you are reading now is a very different book from the one you thought you were reading in the first chapter. This is a book that is twisted and gnarled, one that should make you feel incredibly uncomfortable (and probably does, if you're honest), but the story progressed so slowly that you didn't notice it happening. His stories creep up on you, then hit you over the head with a sledgehammer. I haven't read all of his books, but I've read most of them, and I will always be in awe of his ability to subtly and irrevocably shift the way a reader looks at the world.

Tom Robbins

http://harpercollins.tumblr.com/post/87618413271/9-crazy-true-stories-of-tom-robbins-lifehttps://writingmad.wordpress.com/tag/jitterbug-perfume/

I'm a big fan of absurdism and magical realism. In trying to explain why I love Tom Robbins' books so much, I need to first explain how I read.

When I'm reading a book (and probably when you are too), my mind conjures up a sort of film that plays in my mind. It could look very much like the world I live in, it could look like a country I've visited, or it could look like a place that only exists in the imagination. It could be shades of grey with inclement weather (London), a mossy, earthy palette of greens and browns (books set in my part of the world) or it could, like Tom Robbins' books, take place in vivid colour.

This is what I love about his novels - both his settings and characters are incredibly vibrant. Not only that, but they're quirky, interesting and full of witty quips and one-liners. My all-time favourite of his books is Fierce Invalids Home from Hot Climates.

Neil Gaiman

http://backstagerider.com/2013/08/19/neil-gaiman/http://www.foclsyracuse.org/neil-gaiman/

Neil Gaiman is just one of those people. He has an amazing mind, he writes beautifully, he crosses between genres and even between mediums seamlessly, and he is as interesting in person as he is on the page. Now, I'll be the first to admit that I haven't gotten along with all of his books. But he's still one of my all-time favourite authors because the ones I love I absolutely love.

Also this:



Bill Bryson

http://www.eadt.co.uk/news/clacton_famed_author_bill_bryson_launches_rail_station_clean_up_bid_1_800713https://paperbackfool.wordpress.com/2014/08/18/review-notes-from-a-small-island/

I love reading travel memoirs. The combination of imaginary travel and personal experience makes for a more interesting read than straight-up travel guides. And if you get an author with Bryson's wit and sense of humour, also much more amusing. I can't even tell you the number of times I've burst into embarrassing laughter in a public place while reading one of Bryson's books. One of his books, A Walk In the Woods, is actually slated to become a movie - but I'd recommend reading it (and all his other books) anyway! My favourites: Notes from A Small Island and In A Sunburned Country.

J.K. Rowling

http://harrypotter.wikia.com/wiki/User_blog:Kate.moon/J.K._Rowling%27s_New_Bookhttp://harrypotterfanzone.com/book-1/cover-art/

I mean, of course. This woman created our (because I know I'm not alone here) favourite magical world, a cast of characters more beloved than most real people we know, and a story that managed to get better and better over the course of its 7-book series. She then switched genres and audiences completely, with a new series of hard-boiled detective books. Is there anything she can't do?? I'm guessing no.

Roald Dahl

http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/gallery-e6frg6n6-1226255265938?page=2http://www.mijneigenbibliotheek.nl/extra/themadossiers/themadossiers/roald-dahl

In the way that J.K. Rowling's books marked the childhoods of recent generations, Roald Dahl's books marked mine. I can't even remember which of his books I experienced first - my parents read all of them to me, most multiple times. But Matilda is one of my favourites, and one that I think every book lover relates to strongly. I know Dahl's got a reputation for being a not-so-nice guy, and that's caused a lot of people to feel like they can't love his books as much. I gave it some thought and decided to hell with it - his books are brilliant. They made me love reading, and they stretched my creative landscape in new and wonderful ways. Whatever he did in his personal life doesn't change that. So I stand by my love of his work.

Michael Crichton

http://www.nydailynews.com/news/world/good-bye-notable-deaths-2008-gallery-1.10456?pmSlide=1.10485http://www.mouthshut.com/review/Andromeda-Strain-The-Michael-Crichton-review-rpnqntoqmr

Don't let his popularity or the fact that you can find his books in grocery store checkout lines fool you. Crichton is an excellent writer. I loved Jurassic Park, of course, but honestly my favourite of his books are the ones that didn't get as much attention and weren't made into blockbuster movies: Travels and The Great Train Robbery. Travels is a selection of stories from his days as a medical student and his adventures around the world (varied and fascinating). The Great Train Robbery is his account of working on the film by the same name with Sean Connery.

Isabel Allende

http://www.taringa.net/posts/imagenes/18171808/Isabel-Allende.htmlhttp://simania.co.il/authorDetails.php?itemId=33633

Allende's work is full of intense imagery, and addictive stories that pack an emotional wallop. They're the kind that, once begun, demand to be finished. Nevermind sleep, nevermind food, nevermind any social commitments you might have had. Her best-known work is House of the Spirits, but I started with Eva Luna.


Douglas Coupland

http://www.straight.com/arts/652376/vancouver-art-gallery-puts-douglas-couplands-collecting-mania-displayhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microserfs

Coupland is from my neck of the woods, but surprisingly I hadn't read any of his books (despite having seen them around for years) until my husband recommended them to me when we first started dating. Coupland's work is quirky, often experimenting with topics and formats, and with a focus on the Vancouver area, which he calls home. And if you're considering visiting it and want a book that shows you the real Vancouver, warts and all, check out his book City of Glass - which is an insider's view that includes the things locals associate with home: fleece, Greenpeace (and environmental activism in general), trees, ferries, whales and grow ops.

Authors I think will become favourites (either they've only released one book, or I've only read one so far but it was fantastic):

Hanya Yanagihara


http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/features/maverickin-a-pacific-tempest-hanya-yanagihara-on-being-a-firstnovel-sensation-9037544.htmlhttp://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/books/book-world-a-little-life-by-hanya-yanagihara-inspires-and-devastates/2015/04/09/de04604c-d573-11e4-a62f-ee745911a4ff_story.html

I finished reading A Little Life last week, and I am still recovering. It's been years since I've read a book whose characters came to inhabit my subconscious so thoroughly that I felt as if they were walking beside me through my days as I read. This book tore my heart into shreds again and again, before running over it with a Mack truck. And yet, I have no regrets about reading it, and recommend it without hesitation.

Rita Leganski

https://bookmagnet.wordpress.com/2013/03/04/interview-with-rita-leganski-author-of-the-silence-of-bonaventure-arrow/https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/15732761-the-silence-of-bonaventure-arrow

The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow was an unexpectedly beautiful book. Though the magical realism had some familiar tinges (think Isabel Allende), any resemblance to other books I've read ended there. Leganski has a unique voice, and her characters were heartbreakingly real. She's working on her next book,and I'm anxiously waiting to get my hands on it!

Michael Christie

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Michael-Christie/132174763507802https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/21462154-if-i-fall-if-i-die

If I Fall, If I Die was one of the first books I read this year, and I already know it will be one of my favourites. It's the story of a young boy whose mother is agoraphobic. He has spent his entire life since he can remember locked inside his house with her, until one day he steps outside. And nothing bad happens. From there, he begins venturing further and further afield, eventually attending school and making a few friends. It turns out this is just the beginning - things are about to get a whole lot more exciting for our young protagonist. The story is by turns thrilling, painful and tender. Definitely one to add to your TBR, and would make an excellent book club read. Full of interesting points to discuss.

This post has taken the better part of a day to finish, so I'm going to call it there (extra two authors and all). I know I'm going to remember other authors I should have included once it's published, but there's definitely a good start here! Who made your list?

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