Posts Tagged ‘books read in 2009’

1st February
2010
written by Steph

My review for the February issue of BookPage is now up!  I made a conscious effort to mix things up and read something other than the regular "quirky, indie fic" fare I normally devour and review.  So instead I read The Postmistress by Sarah Blake - a sweeping saga revolving around 3 women just as World War I is about to reach its apex in terms of devastation and scope. I will say that the basic premise of the novel is that this is the story of a postmistress who decides not to deliver the mail (and all the moral quandaries and ramifications of such a decision), but I didn't really feel that was the true heart of the novel I read, merely a sliver of a much richer story.  I hate when novels have flaps with synopses that are misleading or place the wrong emphasis on certain plot points!  I don't normally gravitate towards fiction that is so overtly marketed towards women, nor would I consider war fiction one of my passions, but I did really enjoy this novel, in large part due to the writing, which I thought was a cut above much of what is published nowadays (though at times I did feel that perhaps coherency was sacrificed for poetry).  I thought The Postmistress was a powerful meditation on loss and how we naturally seek to impose meaning and structure on our world, especially in the face of chaos and destruction. To read more of my thoughts on this, you can read my full review here. [Note: I received my copy of The Postmistress for free, but irrespective of this, I would have rated it 4 out of 5 on this blog.]
4th January
2010
written by Steph
No greyzone here - I loved this book!

No greyzone here - I loved this book!

My review of the first book in Jasper Fforde's newest series, Shades of Grey, is now up on the BookPage website and can be found in the January issue.  I'm posting this under "books read in 2009", since that's when I read it, and it was technically launched here in the U.S. before 2010 was rung in. What can I say about Jasper Fforde here that I have not already said?  I think he's brilliant and Shades of Grey definitely does not disappoint. This one was a bit of a slow boil for me as the first half of the book can be overwhelming since Fforde is trying out something completely new here and there's a lot of worldbuilding and backstory that needs to happen.  Those who have any experience with Fforde's fiction know that his writing and speculative leaps can sometimes be discombobulating, even to those who have been initiated and where their Fforde fan badges with pride.  I promise that the disorientation passes and your efforts at the beginning will be richly rewarded.  I'll always be a Thursday girl, and I know that for many fellow book lovers, that series is beloved for a reason, but I really admire the risk Fforde has taken here; whether he intended to or not, he explores new depths both in terms of content and as a writer.  For someone who characterizes his own books as silly and whimsical, there is a lot of intellectual and emotional heft in Shades of Grey that may not necessarily surprise his readers, but will certainly satisfy them.  I went from being uncertain about this series to being completely ravenous for the next installment!  I hope that fellow fans feel the same way, and suggest that those who were not unequivocally won over by The Eyre Affair may want to try this on for size and see if it's a better fit.  Make no mistake, it's still a Jasper Fforde novel, but it is different from the Thursday Next and Nursery Crime series. If I were reading and reviewing it on this site, I would have given the book a 4.5 out of 5. [And yes, I received my review copy for free, but y'all know that something being free doesn't change how I feel about things!] Also, if all goes according to plan, my interview with Jasper should be going up sometime in the next week or so.  I'll keep you posted!
3rd January
2010
written by Steph
By now I’m sure everyone has read more than their fair share of recaps of 2009 reading across the book blogosphere; apologies for being late to the party, but the holiday time in Toronto left little time for perusing the internet (and even less for reading or composing my own posts).  I admit, it was nice taking a mini-break from blogging, and the time away readily filled itself with great meals, movies, shopping, sight seeing, and best of all, time spent with family and friends.  I won’t get all contemplative on all of you here, but prior to my trip home I was rather fraught with ennui – missing home, but worrying that I’d get off the plane in Toronto and fail to feel things click back into place.  Spending two years away from the place you grew up is really hard, and I don’t think I realized how much a part of me was missing until I did get home, and suddenly all the tension and stress and malaise I’ve been carrying evaporated.  That’s not to say I returned to Toronto with unchanged eyes – the city has changed (heck, my family’s home has changed… my parents now sleep in what was my bedroom!) and so have I – but no matter how much it changes, no matter how long I’m away, whenever I hit Canadian soil, I really do feel like I’m coming home. As ironic and paradoxical as it may seem, it’s this prolonged absence away from home that has helped me to better appreciate and understand the place that I’m from and how integral and important Canada as a country is to who I am as a person and how I conceive of my identity.  I mean, I may be able to hear everyone else’s Canadian accent now, and it sure is weird when I hear my own, but I can’t get rid of it, no matter how hard I try.  Canada is truly a part of me. But, this post isn’t really meant to be a reflection or musing on national identity or my time spent at home (there will be another post on the latter, at the very least… and that one will include pictures!).  No, this is supposed to be about books!  Well, you’ll note that in terms of the various activities I mentioned engaging in whilst in Toronto, one of the things that did not feature (along with blogging) was reading.  Despite the best of my intentions, I probably only did about an hour’s worth of reading while out of the country, so although I had hoped to finish Northanger Abbey before ringing in 2010, it didn’t happen.  However, I’m not going to spend my time lamenting the lack of Austen in my 2009 reading, because as you’ll see from the graph and my rundown after the jump, there was still plenty to celebrate (and really, kicking off 2010 with Jane?  Not a bad way to start the year, am I right?)… (more…)
18th December
2009
written by Steph
Thanks, but no thanks...

Thanks, but no thanks...

For well over month now, I’ve been struggling to reclaim my reading groove.  I’ve just felt completely listless when it comes to picking my next read, and then worse yet, sticking with it.  With the weather getting increasingly cold and grisly outside, now is the perfect time of year to curl up with a good read.  Just my luck that good reads seem impossible to find right now.  My last few books have been too grim for my tastes, and seem only to increase my winter blahs.  I decided I needed something light and whimsical, so I turned to one of the Jeeves & Wooster novels that I picked up on our trip to New York.  You’ll all recall that I adored my first dalliance with Wodehouse a few months back, so I was certain this would be just the ticket to cure me of my reading malaise.  So, you can imagine my extreme disappointment in discovering that whatever kind of magician Wodehouse might normally be, I did not love Thank You, Jeeves and it was not the panacea to my biblio blues. Now, in saying that I did not love Thank You, Jeeves, I do not want you to think that this means I did not like the book.  Far from it.  It was very funny, very Wodehouse, very English… but it failed to charm me the way that Jeeves in the Morning did.  I have several guesses for why this is, but before I get into it, I’ll give you a quick rundown of the basic premise of the novel:  After being evicted from his London apartment due to his incessant strumming of the banjo, Bertie decides to embark for the country where he can play his instrument in peace.  Alas, Jeeves cannot abide the instrument and the two decide to part company.  A chance encounter with an old friend Chuffy has Bertie heading to an old cottage in the township of Chuffnell Regis where his banjo will bother no one.  But as is the way with Bertie and his rotten bad luck, his visit happens to coincide with that of an old flame, Pauline Stoker, not to mention her overbearing father, and one of Bertie’s old nemeses, Sir Roderick Glossop.  Hijinks ensue as Bertie tries to help Pauline & Chuffy find true love with one another, but as Jeeves would helpfully remind him (were he still in his employ), the course of true love never did run smooth, least of all for Bertie… (more…)
14th December
2009
written by Steph
I know, I know, the wretched movie tie-in cover... but it's the copy I read (because it was cheap)!

I know, I know, the wretched movie tie-in cover... but it's the copy I read (because it was cheap)!

Due to a dismal turn-out at my real-life book club last month, I was selected as “She Who Will Choose Next Month’s Book”.  I always agonize over potential choices when it comes my time to choose, because few people in my book club are as voracious readers as I am.  I worry that many of my picks will be too challenging for many of them (not that they aren’t all smart ladies, just that I’m not entirely certain what many of them tend to pick on the “reading to relax” front) or too long (for a while we had a “no books longer than 300 pages” rule, which I thought was foolish).  I wanted to pick books that the rest of my group would be excited about but that would also promote good discussion; in the past I’ve picked Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro and The Road by Cormac McCarthy.   This time I decided to shake things up and pick books that have been turned into movies, hoping that the prospect of getting to watch a film at our round-up would entice more people to actually read the book and attend the meeting!  I pitched three options and everyone voted, and in the end, Revolutionary Road nearly unanimously beat out In Cold Blood by Truman Capote and The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Euginides. I went into the novel not knowing much about it, but I doubt many of you are in the same boat – this book has found a good deal of prominence in the book blogosphere, so it’s actually quite remarkable I went in as unspoiled as I did.  I pretty much just though it would be about a young couple’s marriage that was somehow sad/depressing, but that’s it!  Come to think of it, that’s actually a pretty good synopsis… 😉  For those of you looking for a bit more, the basic narrative thrust behind the novel is that the Wheelers, Frank & April, are a young married couple who had kids seven-years too early and have consequently moved to the suburbs in an attempt to embody the good old-fashioned American family.  Both Frank & April find suburbia rather oppressive and deadening, and the strain of the mundane is beginning to fracture their marriage that gets unhappier by the day.  Frank & April need to do something quickly in order to save their marriage and possibly reclaim a little joie de vivre as well.  Whether their best laid plans actually come to fruition, well, you’ll just have to read the book to find out! (more…)
10th December
2009
written by Steph
Well, I'm sick of Jennifer Johnson, so there!

Well, I'm sick of Jennifer Johnson, so there!

The reading slump continues, I’m afraid.  My brain has just been so g-d tired the past few weeks that I’ve been exceedingly picky about what I can/cannot read and most books in my TBR stack haven’t even been making it off the pile before I decide to hold off on them until later.  There’s nothing like the library to help make up your mind, however, as looming due dates help certain books wedge their way into your field of view; with lengthy queues on most new releases many of them wind up being “now or never” reads.  Jennifer Johnson... wound up being one such read. I first read about this book over at the Girl Detective’s blog.  Based on the cover I probably wouldn’t have given it much consideration, but her review convinced me that this was something other than your run-of-the-mill chick lit, and actually manages to pull of something relatively cool with the genre, so I thought I would give it a go.  The basic premise is that Jennifer is single and miserable, working in a lame copyrwriting job for a local department store, where she has a passive aggressive boss and the only thing getting her through the day is her gay pal, Christopher, and the Cinnabon girl in the foodcourt.  Her forrays into online dating have only led to more pain, and to add insult to injury her sister and her ex-boyfriend are both getting married on Valentine’s Day.  Just when she thinks things can’t get any worse, Brad Keller, who just happens to be the son of the man who is president of the department store where she works, waltzes into her life and actually appears interested in her!  All of a sudden, Jennifer is getting exactly what she wants… but at what cost? (more…)
3rd December
2009
written by Steph
It's the return that possibly no one was waiting for!

My December review for BookPage

And now for something entirely different, head on over to BookPage and check out my review for the December issue, where I covered the sequel to The Nanny Diaries, Nanny Returns.  No, really, I did!  Can you tell December is slim pickings when it comes to new releases? Ok, but seriously, even though chick lit is really not a genre that I tend to kick back with if given my druthers, I will admit that I used to dig this stuff and even read the original Nanny Diaries way back when… and I’ve even seen the movie!  So how did the sequel hold up?  I think I nail it on the head when I say that if chick lit is your think and/or you really liked the first, then the sequel really isn’t all that shabby.  Not going to win a Pulitzer any time soon, but not all fiction strives to do that, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.  Sometimes you just want something fluffy and fun!  And I will say that it was an interesting exercise to read this and then to review it from the perspective of someone who is this book’s target reading audience and put my own biases aside… this book may not be in my wheelhouse, so to speak, but I’m actually quite happy with how the review turned out.  Take a look and let me know what you think! [P.S. If I were rating this on the site, I'd give it a 2 out of 5, simply because it just really isn't my kind of book, and all things considered, fluff may be fluff, but I'm still taking the writing and the plot into account when I'm evaluating a pleasure read... See above for this not winning the Pulitzer any time soon. Maybe it deserves something higher if I were grading on a "chick lit curve", but honestly I don't read enough of that genre to place this accurately on that curve, so we'll stick with my rating, which I bestow regardless of genre.] Oh, and since we're all disclaimer-y these days, I was given the book for free.
1st December
2009
written by Steph
Was delighted by the dog and the town!

Was delighted by the dog and the town!

I had never heard of this series by J.F. Englert, featuring a mystery-solving black lab named Randolph until Jill of Rhapsody in Books mentioned it in passing in the comments of one of my posts.  I said the premise sounded fun and like something I would be interested in checking out, and the author himself came to my aid!  He offered to send me the first two books in the series for my perusal, and I am so glad that I took him off on his generous offer.  I found the first book in the series, A Dog About Town, a delightful and diverting read and will happily avail myself of the rest of the series in the future. The basic premise of A Dog About Town is that Randolph, a black lab, and his owner Harry live in downtown Manhattan.  Harry is an artist of sorts, who has had middling success, but has largely given up on his work ever sine the disappearance of the love of his life, Imogen.  Randolph is anything but your run-of-the-mill black lab, instead gifted with uncanny cognitive abilities, being able to reason and read, and is just as likely to quote from Shakespeare as he is to discuss the nuances of the variety of canine compatriots who frequent the Bull Moose Dog Run near the Natural History Museum.  In this first novel, Randolph put his remarkable powers of detection to work when Harry attends an ill-fated séance in which author Lyell Overton Minskoff dies of what appears to be a heart attack.  Despite all appearances, Randolph doesn’t believe that Minskoff’s death is as innocent as it seems, and worries that something more sinister – like murder – may be at play.  He soon narrows the suspects down to three strangers who were linked to the séance, but is saddened to discover that one of Harry’s good friends (and financial benefactors) may also be somehow involved.  It’s up to Randolph to figure out whodunit (and how to get Harry to realize it!) before another victim is claimed! (more…)
25th November
2009
written by Steph

I first read a review of this book a few months ago on Write Meg! and left a comment saying it sounded like a fun read, and one I’d consider taking a peek at myself in the future.  Enter, Nicole, publicist extraordinaire who then contacted me asking if I would like a free copy of Only Milo to review on our site.  I said yes (thanks, Nicole!), and here we are! November has been an abysmal month for me in terms of reading.  We’ve been really busy with traveling and work, and that certainly hasn’t helped me with turning the pages, but moreover I think I’ve just kind of been on reading burn out.  It’s a terrible thing when it happens, but I’ve come to terms with the fact that voracious reader that I am, there are still going to be times when my reading ebbs and I just need to take a break from books.  It’s never a divorce, mind you, just a temporary separation while I recuperate and reenergize before diving back into the endless ocean of books. So after taking THREE WEEKS to read a single book (Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde, if you must know, and no, it didn’t take that long because I wasn’t enjoying it, but rather the aforementioned reading slump is squarely to blame, and yes, I did really like it a good deal, but unfortunately that’s all I can say for now and you’ll have to wait for the Jan issue of BookPage to hear more of my thoughts on the matter, but basically if you are already a longstanding fan of Fforde then it pretty much follows that you will like this one too…), I decided it was time to turn my attention to something that would be a quick and easy read. (more…)
5th November
2009
written by Steph

If you recall, not that long ago I wrote about how I’m an intuitive reader and I’m all about reading books that suit my mood; I’ve gotta read books at the right time for me.  My experience reading Out Stealing Horses was definitely an example of this.  I’ve been sick since last Tuesday night, and while many of my symptoms have finally been vanquished, I’ve been completely EXHAUSTED the past few days.  Consequently, I haven’t been doing much reading as I’ve just been too tired.  I was in one of those terrible lethargic states where each book I picked up either felt too taxing or simply failed to hold my attention.  I finished my last book on October 24, so you can see that it’s been almost two weeks since I’ve really been able to read anything. I’m not sure what compelled me to pick up Out Stealing Horses as it’s been sitting on our shelves for almost a year (if not more) and it just never felt like the right time.  I was in such a finicky mood – I wanted a book that was engaging and a page turner, but it couldn’t be manic and wild, because my poor brain just couldn’t keep up with any kind of frenetic writing, nor any prose that was too complicated.  I wanted something straightforward that would keep me happily reading so I could forget about how miserable I was feeling physically. (more…)
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