torontoc's books read in 2014

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torontoc's books read in 2014

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1torontoc
Dez 28, 2013, 10:51 am

I am just setting up my thread! I have started some interesting books that I think I will finish in the new year.

2wookiebender
Dez 28, 2013, 11:23 pm

Hurrah, you do always have great books in your list. Looking forward to your new reads!

3jfetting
Dez 29, 2013, 9:40 am

Welcome back! I also enjoy reading your threads.

4torontoc
Jan 2, 2014, 8:48 am

Thank you!
First book-
1. Prague by Arthur Phillips- I enjoy reading this author as his works are always different. From historical fiction to contemporary stories, Phillips creates new and intriguing plots every time. This novel is about four American (and one Canadian) ex-patriots who are living in Budapest in 1990. The communist government is gone and westerners are flooding into Eastern European cities looking for new opportunities to make money. The title of this book is ironic as the characters wistfully believe that Prague is the best place to be and they are not there. Although the reader follows Emily, an assistant at the U.S. Embassy, Mark, a postdoctoral student writing on nostagia, Charles, a businessman and Scott, a teacher,we focus on John,a journalist and the estranged brother of Scott. John is hopelessly obsessed with Emily, but gets involved with Nicky, an angry artist. The reader follows the five through nightclubs, business dealings and contact with Hungarians who have suffered at the hands of the Nazis and later communists. Imre's story haunts the book as Phillips includes in his prose a history of Hungarian political involvement. A good read.

5rainpebble
Jan 3, 2014, 2:54 pm

Hi t-roc! I have begun my thread but haven't yet 'set' it up. Just haven't seemed to be in the mood nor have the time. We still have grandkids running in & out & Christmasing with their old nanny & Papa whilst they are yet out on school holiday. But soon.........
Anyway Happy New Year ty you & good luck with your 2014 reading challenges. I look forward to following you.
belva

6judylou
Jan 5, 2014, 10:50 pm

Hi Cyrel, welcome back. I have a Phillips book on my bedside table which I hope to read soon.

7torontoc
Jan 7, 2014, 7:15 pm

Hello! I do like all of the books by Arthur Phillips that I have read.
My choices are based on my mood at the time of choice- this next biography was a gift from my brother and sister-in-law- I had time to read it ( four hour wait in the airport for my flight yesterday) so I did! This spell of freezing temperatures is great for reading!

2. Empress Dowager Cixi The Concubine Who Launched Modern China by Jung Chang. The title says it all. Not only does the author research the history of this dominant Empress of China, she also gives Cixi credit for many reforms and the beginning of the creation of modern China. Jung Chang uses newly available sources to correct previously held opinions on her role in obstructing reform rather than setting the stage as it were for change. The role that Japan and western powers played in the politics and seizing of territory is really interesting. Chang shows how the role of a woman in Chinese society determined how Cixi acted. Was she ruthless in getting rid of her adapted son, the emperor, or his concubine, Pearl? Chang mentioned both killings as necessary but puts Cixi's actions in a larger context, looking at her choices at the time. The author does seem to dismiss certain decisions and expand on other actions as the pragmatic choice. I did enjoy reading this biography and the details of life in the forbidden city at the turn of the century.

8torontoc
Jan 11, 2014, 8:26 am


3. New York Diaries 1609-2009 edited by Teresa Carpenter This is the kind of book that is a good gift- that is how I got it. I really liked the organization-the editor took excerpts from the writings of many known and unknown people who lived in New York from 1609 to 2009. The entries were collected by the day of the year so the reader would see the account from a ship in 1609 on Sept 1 and then read about an entry from 1884. Some diaries were solemn and some were frivolous.They covered the revolutionary war in 1776, ( with some entries by George Washington) to the 1950's and Broadway shows and to heartbreaking accounts of Sept 11, 2001. I really enjoyed this read and i might look for the published diaries of some of the people published here.

9rainpebble
Jan 14, 2014, 3:57 pm

>8 torontoc::
This sounds like an interesting read and one that the reader can take up & put down at will. I like to always have one of those around. But usually mine are a book of poetry or short stories. I rather like the sound of this one. Good reck!

10torontoc
Jan 17, 2014, 10:08 am

thanks, my nieces gave that book and they make interesting selections.

4. The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz by Mordecai Richler. This is a reread for Darryl's Canadian Lit challenge in 75 Books Read Group. I wanted to see how this novel stood the test of time for me. I think that it did. The main character , Duddy is a driven young man who wants to make money and buy land. He is inspired by his grandfather's wish. The reader follows Duddy from his rough childhood to his dubious triumph. Duddy is crude, unscrupulous and cruel. His older brother, Lennie is the one who is following the dream of his father and uncle. Lennie is studying to be a doctor while Duddy scrambles to make a living.Duddy uses everyone he comes in contact with from his girlfriend Yvette to his hapless new friend, virgil. Richler gives a devastating description of Montreal Jewish society during the early 1950's. He writes about the very poor and the richer groups who had made money. He also looks at the anti-semitism prevalent during that time- he spares no group in Montreal society. in his novel. Richler's description of a bar mitzvah film made by Duddy and his mostly drunk film director is a great sendup and is hilarious. The character of the Boy Wonder mirrors the "mythical great man" that Richler uses in his later books. ( see the film made of Barney's Version). I went back to the great biography written about Richler by Charles Foran to look at the author's background. Richler was born into an Orthodox Jewish family. His mother and father eventually separated. The rejection of his religious background and the self made man are themes in this book. Richler does present Duddy's Jewish Montreal in an uncomplimentary way ( and that is a mild way of describing how he viewed his city). That is ironic to me as Montreal was known to have a very rich Jewish culture - more so than Toronto. Montreal had many Jewish writers, poets and institutions like the Jewish Public Library. Richler used his own background and ideas to create characters and places that will return in his later books. i actually want to reread more of his early work.

11torontoc
Jan 20, 2014, 9:22 am

5. Rouse up O Young Men of the New Age! by Kenzaburo Oe. I really don't remember who recommended this book to me- either a LT member or someone on Bookmooch. While I was reading this very interesting story, I was reminded why I am on these web sites. i would have never found this author and book on my own. Oe writes about a famous Japanese author who has a severely disabled son of about 19 years old. The fictional author has been reading the poems of William Blake and links them in this account to events from his past.Each chapter in the book is based on a poem or fragment written by Blake. He and his family confront the many problems of living with a young man who has limitations and some wonderful gifts of musicality. Several poems and the meanings have direct connections in the writer's mind with how he deals with his son. The reader learns about the writer's family, his own father and his writings. In fact although the book is a novel, Kenzaburo Oe really does have a severely disabled son and some of the incidents written about in the book did happen to his family. There is a very good afterword by the translator, John Nathan.
A really good read!

12judylou
Jan 22, 2014, 5:19 pm

That one sounds good. Wishlisted.

13wookiebender
Jan 24, 2014, 7:32 am

Sounds good to me, too! Don't you love having good recommendations for books? :)

14judylou
Jan 25, 2014, 5:10 am

If only I could read as fast as I wishlist!

15wareagle78
Jan 25, 2014, 10:56 pm

judylou, you just summarized my life.

16torontoc
Jan 28, 2014, 9:27 am

I agree- I must have over 250 books on my wish list! and it grows every week!

6. The Riddle of the Labyrinth The Quest to Crack an Ancient Code by Margalit Fox. Fox writes about the three people who helped crack the code to the language of Linear B- the writings discovered on clay tablets in the Palace of Knossos on the island of Crete. Fox makes the argument that the work of Alice Kober was essential in the process of understanding the language of Linear B. Kober was a Brooklyn College professor who worked on sorting and organizing the incriptions from the clay tablets in her " spare time" . She corresponded with Arthur Evans who discovered the tablets where he excavated the site at Knossos. Kober eventually had a year off from teaching and went to England to record some of the inscriptions. Her papers on the tablets and discoveries about the language provided the groundwork for the decipherment of the Linear B. Fox argues that Kober might have cracked the code if it were not for her untimely death. The person who is credited with solving the structure of the script is Michael Ventris, an architect who had been fascinated with the script of Linear B since he was a teenager.Fox follows his discoveries and his troubled personal life. I must admit that I admired the painstaking process of decipherment that Fox illustrates for the reader. ( the cataloguing of every letter and combination of letters was an enormous task.) A very satisfying read for me.

17torontoc
Fev 4, 2014, 8:39 am

7. Sick Puppy by Carl Hiaasen. What a treat to read this funny satire of politics and development in Florida. Hiaasen uses Florida as his subject in many of his books. The characters are wierd and propel this adventure to a satisfying conclusion. Twilly Spree who sets the story moving forward, is a wealthy young man with anger management problems. When he spots Palmer Stout littering on the highway , Twilly avenges this act with a dog-napping and eventually a relationship with Palmer's wife Desie. Palmer is a powerful lobbyist involved with the bribes that will turn a small island into a concrete jungle of condos. The developer, Robert Clapley employs a particular loathsome thug ,Mr. Gash who take pleasure in torturing those who oppose Clapley's projects. Add to this mix, a renegade former governor of Florida, a large docile rhinoceros who turns rogue and of course the Labrador dog with two names. This novel was funny and unfortunately, some of the bribery described probably takes place in many places in North America. A fun read on a too cold series of days.

18torontoc
Fev 13, 2014, 3:42 pm

Thanks!
well I was out of the cold for a week and read the following.

8. Winter In Madrid by C.J. Sansom I have followed this author's wonderful detective series set in the time of King Henry V111 of England. This story is set during and after the Spanish Civil War and during the Second World War. Harry Brett was wounded at Dunkirk and has recovered when he is asked by the British Secret Service to go to Madrid. He is posing as a translator with the British embassy but his main task is to look up an former classmate, Sandy Forsyth. Forsyth is suspected of setting up a new gold mine that might change the Spanish government's supposed neutrality in the conflicet between Britain and Germany. Barbara Clare is Forsyth's girlfriend but she has her own agenda that involves a rescue of her old boyfriend who is in a workcamp. Sansom's story gives the reader a history of the conflict and the suffering of children in orphanages and the prisoner of war camps run by the government.This novel is a very good suspense story that includes some real people who were involved in Spanish politics at the beginning of World War Two.

9. The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty. Louise Brooks was an American and rather infamous actress in the first quarter of the twentieth century. This novel imagines her early life as she is chaperoned by a married acquaintance of her mother's from Wichita, Kansas. Unfortunately the story of Cora seems more apt to resemble a soap opera. The real elements of the New York orphanages and how they sent children on trains to be adopted in midwestern states have been incorporated into the novel. The story is really about Cora, her life and how she adjusts and changes to trying circumstances. I thought that the writing was not as good as the material presented. There was a narrative about Louise Brooks but not as the main focus. As I was on holiday, this was a satisfactory read.

10. Barnacle Love by Anthony De Sa I was rereading this linked collection of short stories for my book club. The author's take on a Portuguese family and the way the father ended up in Canada as well as his conflict with his son is deftly told. I thought that De Sa has written a heartbreaking book about revenge, new worlds and the gap between first and second generation immigrants to Canada.
An excellent read.

11. And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini. This novel relates the stories of many characters linked to Afghanistan. The key tale is about a man who sells his daughter to a wealthy couple in Kabul and how his son and the rest of the family coped with the upheaval in that country. This story touches on the exile and the terrible lives of those who stayed. I found the links between events and characters to be a little disjointed but eventually the whole panorama of events made sense. An interesting story but not my favourite novel.

12. Sex and the City by Candace Bushnell. O.K. -this was a reread and a free book on my e-reader. I was sitting in the sun and enjoying the warmth of the weather. The book was so shallow! I can't believe that I read it for the second time. I don't understand what planet these characters lived on- seriously- on to the next.

13. Ashenden by W. Somerset Maugham. Sometimes when I have read a really bad book I turn to sometime really good to cleanse my mind. I read this book a few years ago and so knew what a good read it would be. This series of spy stories set during the First World War was well written and helped me get back on track for good reading.

19judylou
Fev 13, 2014, 6:33 pm

I wishlisted Barnacle Love. Now I just hope I get around to reading it!

And re: No 12, sometimes you just need a bit of light and fluffy to get you through the day :O)

20torontoc
Fev 14, 2014, 9:40 am

I know! I did like the TV series- I guess that I found the book to be really, really dated.

21torontoc
Fev 17, 2014, 11:54 am

14. The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud Claire Messud has written a compelling story about betrayal ( although the reader doesn't find out how bad this particular incident is until the end of the novel) and obsession. We, the readers, know that the main character, Nora, is really angry but she gives a detailed narrative about the events that led up to her shocking discovery. Nora is a third grade teacher in her late thirties. She wanted to be an artist but listens to her mother who wanted her to be independent and in a " safe" place. So she puts her ideas about creating art aside until she meets a family that has moved to Boston for a year- the Shahid family. Reza is the new child in her class. He has come from Paris with his parents- Skandar ,on a fellowship and writing a book and Sirena is an artist. Nora becomes entangled and entranced with this family as she shares a studio with Sirena who is constructing her latest art piece. Nora, baby sits Reza, helps Sirena with her artwork and has long discussions with Skandar who walks her home after the babysitting sessions. The theme of the "woman upstairs" is foremost on Nora's mind as she relates her story.She sees herself as one who does good but keeps to herself with really no attachments except for some good friends and an elderly father. The Shahid family seems to give her the courage to try to break out of the " woman upstairs" mould and go back to her art as she starts to create small dioramas of artist's rooms in the studio. In a way Nora is in love with Reza, Skandar and Sirena- she sacrifices her own work to help them. The reader might ask- are the Shahids users or do they help take Nora out of her safe world?This is a great story with many intriguing questions to think about.

22judylou
Fev 17, 2014, 11:53 pm

I have borrowed that book from the library twice and both times have had to return it unread. I'm not sure why I keep putting it off. I will borrow it again I'm sure. I just hope that this time I will read it too!

23torontoc
Fev 20, 2014, 8:59 am

The first couple of pages contain a " rant" but do go beyond that- the story gets better!

15. Sacre Bleu A Comedy D'Art by Christopher Moore I enjoy all of the wild and funny stories that Moore writes. Here he takes on the world of Impressionist and Post Impressionist artists in Paris. After the death of Vincent Van Gogh, a baker turned artist, Lucien Lessard and artist and man about town or specifically about brothels, Henri Toulouse-Laurtrec, investigate the mysterious death and more links to fellow artists. They come to suspect The Colorman and his shade of blue that proves fatal to those who use it. The origin of this special ultramarine blue and it's link to seductive women leads Lucien and Henri to uncomfortable truths about their own behaviour as they meet Bleu, a spirit who jumps from body to body to maintain the supply of the " sacre blue". This is a funny and outrageous take on art, and the world of artists.

16. Between Friends by Amos Oz. Oz has written a series of short stories about characters who live in a kibbutz in 1950's Israel. The stories are about the strain of relationships and the constraints of the this particular group's rules. Childhood rearing, separation and tensions between partners are some of the themes in this collection of well crafted stories.

24whitewavedarling
Fev 22, 2014, 12:24 pm

I'm so glad to see someone else reading Amos Oz! I see his name floating around LT so rarely, but I do love his work :)

25torontoc
Fev 27, 2014, 11:22 pm

I agree!

17. Vampires in the Lemon Grove by Karen Russell. I liked Russell's first book of short stories and this collection is also very good. Quirky situations become quite sad as the author's very vivid imagination lead the reader to dialogues with vampires living and eating fruit from a lemon grove, horses who are the incarnation of former US presidents,a group of Japanese girls turned into human silkworms and a group of tough boys confronting a scarecrow who resembles a boy that they terrorized. Russell takes the absurd and creates a situation of heartbreak. Certainly beyond the bizarre, the reader finds all too human relationships and emotions. A very good read.

26torontoc
Mar 3, 2014, 9:41 am

18. Give Me Everything You Have On Being Stalked by James Lasdun. Sigh...This was an interesting yet infuriating book for me to read. James Lasdun is a writier who has been stalked by an ex-student for a few years. This book is more than his account about this story. Lasdun uses his memoir to express his mixed feelings on his Jewish heritage brought on by his stalker's anti-semitic rantings ( his father and mother did convert to Christianity and he was raised as a Protestant), Israel and the political situation and guilt. His account of his dealings with this student (who he calls Nasreen in the book) shows that he did encourage her when he thought that her writing showed promise. Lasdun introduced Nasreen to his agent and she in turn thought that an editor would be able to help the student with her manuscript. I had the impression that Lasdun thought that he was being a mentor to a promising new talent and he did exchange many emails with Nasreen. However, this correspondance soon took a menacing turn with threats, and irrational accusations. Eventually Nasreen wrote bizarre emails to Lasdun's employers at colleges and corrupted his wikipedia entries, and reviews on Amazon and other web sites. Nasreen also threatened Lasdun's agent and the editor. As a former teacher, I thought- how has Lasdun handled this situation? Here I have problems. When dealing with a student who exhibits some instability, a teacher should always consult with the authorities at the teaching institution. Usually you find out that the behaviour has happened before and you, the teacher become part of a team that works out a proper response. Also, a teacher is the instructor not a friend to the student. Maybe because Lasdun was a writer and part time instructor he felt that his role was different in nuturing what he initially thought was a rising talent in writing. However,in my reading of the beginning of the book, I was thinking -don't do that!
End of rant- Lasdun was dealing with a horrorifying situation. He got a little help from the police but this book was probably the best solution in confronting his stalker.

19. The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka What a beautifully written book! Otsuka has used a minimal style to tell the stories of Japanese women sent over to the United States to become wives to Japanese men. The brief chapters repeat the stories of many women with their varied backgrounds, their experiences on the boat and the surprise of meeting the men and how different they were from the photographs and letters. The women work in agriculture and in laundries. They have children in hard circumstances.They become maids. The writing is really a collective poem of events that make up the lives of this community until the second world war when they are detained by the US government and sent away from the coast. Otsuka has used her style to give the reader a glimpse into the very hard lives of this immigrant community. A really good read.

27torontoc
Mar 7, 2014, 9:14 am

20. An Artist of the Floating World by Kazuo Ishiguro. I really like Ishiguro's style and the way truths about his characters and plots can be so subtle and really sneak up on the reader. It is not that he uses the unreliable narrator. Lead characters are sometimes fooling themselves about motives and the reality of the situation. The painter Masuji Ono is retired and enjoying the life of a grandfather and father to his two grown up daughters. The time is just after World War Two and Ono seems to have emerged from his wartime activities with no problems. The reader is informed about Ono's past and his development as a noted artist and teacher. Ono's memories are sometimes revealed only partially before he goes on to talk about another incident in his life. Ono ,in the present, is concerned with a marriage match for his daughter. He seems bewildered at times about his reputation and actions of his past. The reader, in fact, learns more about what he did and the reality of his influence. Ishiguro delivers a strong theme through a subtle depiction of selection of memories.

28torontoc
Mar 11, 2014, 2:20 pm

21. The Tastemakers Why We're Crazy for Cupcakes but Fed Up with Fondue Plus Baconomics, Superfoods amd Other Secrets from the World of Food Trends by David Sax. This book has one of the longest titles that I have read recently. The subtitles really sum up what this interesting account of the world of food trending or futures is all about. The author, whose account of Deli history I really liked, has decoded for the amateur food enthusiast, how selected food products become famous and prominent in stores and restaurants. Sax shows how specific people have rediscovered ancient grains, renamed fruit ( for example the Kiwi) and repositioned cupcakes, apples and bacon. Food festivals, awards and strategic placements have changed what the average person eats and buys in the grocery store. How the artisan grower relates to the larger chains in the food business is sometimes almost like a "Cinderella" story. ( see the account of the goat cheese caramels). I enjoyed reading this story of food and how we learn about new taste initiatives.

29wookiebender
Mar 14, 2014, 5:53 am

Baconomics? The mind boggles! Sounds like fun, will keep an eye open for that one.

30torontoc
Mar 14, 2014, 9:24 am

Yes- Sax wrote about a festival nust devoted to Bacon products.

22. Manuscript Found in Accra by Paulo Coelho. I stopped reading poetry a number of years ago- I don't know why but I have avoided books of poetry. This book is probably the closest to written poetry as I am going to get to. I also avoid self help books that advise the reader on how to change their life. Coelho's book is a combination of poetic advice on the good life masquerading as a history. I enjoyed it and found the words very comforting. The author imagines that a manuscript dating from the time of Jerusalem in 1099. has been discovered. The writings are based on a meeting of people inside the walls of Jerusalem just before an attack by the Crusaders. An unknown man, named "The Copt" is speaking and answering questions about loyalty, anxiety, love and more. The words explain ways of living and they are , of course applicable to our lives of today, I found the advice contemporary and well written and look to discove more of this author's work.

31torontoc
Mar 16, 2014, 11:24 am

23. Granta 124 on the theme of travel. I haven't picked up a Granta for a while. It still has what I remember- a variety of authors from all over the world, a mix of memoir and fiction and a focus on issues of world impact. I enjoyed the stories and articles and was able to discover new authors ( to me) and think about world issues.

32torontoc
Mar 16, 2014, 11:33 pm

24. Some Girls , Some Hats and Hitler by Trudi Kanter The history of this memoir is as interesting as the actual story. An editor discovered the self published memoir while she was at university.- she eventually interested Virago Press in publishing the book . Trudi Kanter designed hats in prewar Vienna. She lived a life of luxury and comfort. Walter Ehrlich was a handsome and sophstiicated man who fell in love with Trudi. However, Walter failed to see how serious the threat was to Austrian Jews by the Nazi takeover of his beloved country. Trudi describes how she arranged for travel visas and managed to get herself and Walter to England and eventually her parents as well. Life in England was hard and both Walter and Trudi's father were imprisoned as enemy aliens. How Trudi and her mother managed and how Walter and her father were released form the final part of the memoir. There is some mystery as to Trudi's later life. This story is important as it describes the lifestyles of Trudi and her friends in Vienna- a life that disappeared with the start of the war.A very interesting read for me.

33torontoc
Mar 19, 2014, 9:46 am

25. A Thousand Years of Good Prayers by Yiyun Li I found this book of short stories at the gift and book shop at TIFF in Toronto. Browsing in a book store had led me to some wonderful finds. This is not something that I can do online- so I try to support independent books stores as much as possible. Yiyun Li is an author that I was unfamiliar with but I will be sure to look for her other works. The short story format allows for compact and masterfully written slices of life. Li writes about today's China and characters who have had their lives altered by Chinese politics and policy. There are some stories about those who did move to the United States. The writing is excellent and I am glad to have discovered a new (to me) author.

34torontoc
Mar 23, 2014, 5:54 pm

26.Where'd You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple I reread this book for my book club- it is still amusing, well written and a satire on politiically correct everything - school, support groups, TED talks, Microsoft culture and more. This time I liked what isn't said- how the marriage of Elgie and Bernadette will survive or what the relationship of Bee to her parents will evolve. Great book and funn

35torontoc
Mar 28, 2014, 9:27 am

27. Origins a memoir by Amin Maalouf translated by Catherine Temerson Maalouf a journalist and writer from Lebanon who has been living in France since 1975, has written a memoir about his family. He concentrates on the life of his grandfather, Boutros, and his great uncle Gebrayal. Gebrayal went to live in Cuba and Maalouf writes of his experience in travelling to Havana and tracking down evidence of Gebrayal's life and an explanation of how he died. The writing explains not only the details of the family tree but the tensions between religion, customs and politics of the various branches of the family. A really interesting account.

36torontoc
Mar 31, 2014, 10:23 pm

28 Unscrolled 54 Writers and Artists Wrestle With the Torah edited by Roger Bennett I found the idea behind this book very interesting. Give a group of writers,journalists, and artists who usually work in film television and media a portion of the Torah( Old Testament). Ask them to comment in any format or style that works for them. The result is a mixture of scripts, modern day updates, graphic novel excerpts and more. Some of the interpretations are right on the mark for me, Others are not. I think that the idea of studying and looking for relevance encourages the reader to think about the material. The invitation to update the passages from the Torah is flawed but in a good way. I enjoyed seeing what the various writers came up with and how they presented their point of view

37torontoc
Abr 15, 2014, 10:41 am

29. George, Nicholas and Wilhelm Three Royal Cousins and the Road to World War 1 by Miranda Carter I enjoyed this history and biography. The work really included George's father. Edward and extensive British relations. The author covers the time period at the turn of the 19th to the 20th century. The biographies of Kaiser Wilhem, of Germany and Tsar Nicholas of Russia detailed all the follies and mischief of hereditary leadership. Carter follows in detail all the meetings of royal cousins and traces how the importance of royal connections diminishes as the powers of army and democratic elected bodies take over making the important decisions. The story of the mismanagement of Russian government by the Tsar points out how the coming revolution was able to take place. Wilhem is a major figure as he blunders through his life and was not able to rule properly. George is probably the least influential as the British system of government is the most representative .Although there is the story of one incompetent general whose judgement led to the sacrifice of many thousands of lives in the first world war- he was kept in his place as a result of George's support. This history tells the stories of kings whose influence on government would be the last- only George's sons would rule but in a far different world. i found this work to be an important addition to the knowledge of the events leading up to the first world war.

38judylou
Abr 15, 2014, 7:08 pm

I have just caught up on your thread and I see you have read a few favourites of mine. Numbers 17,19 and 26 are all great reads. I have a copy of #25 also, but every time I look for my next book, I overlook it. Not sure why, but with your recommendation, I hope it encourages me to pick it up sooner.

Paulo Coelho was once my favourite author and I couldn't wait for him to produce a new book. But he got so preachy a few books ago that I had to stop reading him. Veronika Decides to Die and By the River Piedra are high up there on my all time list of favourites. But by the time I read The Zahir I was ready to give him up.

39torontoc
Abr 19, 2014, 11:43 am

I hadn't read any Paulo Coelho and did like the book I selected. Yiyun Li is an author that I would like to read more of- I do have one more of her books on my book pile.

30. A Man Without Breath by Phillip Kerr. This is the latest book in the series on Bernie Gunther. detective in Germany before and during World War 11. This time the author takes the reader to 1943, when the detective is working for the Wehrmacht War Crimes Bureau.He investigates any crimes committed by and against German soldiers. In a way Gunther thought it was ironic that such attention was taken with individual acts when the German army was killing thousands ( and it turned out millions) of people in the course of the war. He is sent to Smolensk, Russia to look into the discovery of bodies buried at Katyn. it turns out that the Russians ahd executed thousands of Polish officers there. Gunther's job is to co-ordinate the experts who would arrive to exhume and examine the bodies from various countries. He also gets involved in the investigation of a number of murders linked to the massacre. As well the story looks at the aristocratic officers who are trying to assassinate Hitler. A very compelling story.

40torontoc
Abr 24, 2014, 10:29 am

31.Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking a Memoir of Food and Longing by Anya Von Bremzen This is a combination of memoir of the author and her family's life in the Soviet Union as well as a mini- history of the politics and the food. Von Bremzen's mother tried to bring up her daughter ( the father was not around much) as an "anti-soviet " person. Eventually the two of them moved to the United States, leaving behind a grandfather who was in naval intelligence during World War 2 and many close relatives. The book uses the various periods of Soviet history as a jumping point for family stories and descriptions of the food that they made. At the end of the book there is a section of recipes. ( the author is a noted food writer today)I found this book to be a very satisfying read!

41torontoc
Maio 7, 2014, 11:13 am

32. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Wow! I really enjoyed this novel about a Nigerian woman, Ifemelu, and her love, Obinze. Ifemelu describes her life in Nigeria, her time in the United States and then her life back in Nigeria. However ,the material on Obinze and his activities in London is too brief- I would have liked to know more. The author used her two main characters to explore the tensions and problems of race in America. Ifemelu uses her blog to talk about the issue as seen from the point of view of a " non- american black." I enjoyed her blog entries as well as the accounts of her encounters with her American boyfriends and relatives. Ifemelu not only has a sharp eye and thoughts on Americans- she also has a critical view on Nigerian society. I really liked this book and the author's language and ideas. I thought that the ending was the weakest part of the novel but do recommend it.

42torontoc
Maio 9, 2014, 4:14 pm

33. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn This was a good summer read. Actually the story reminded me of some of those new TV shows that border on the supernatural- you know that it can't happen. I found the ending a little creepy and unbelievable but had fun reading the story. The reader learns about a marriage gone astray- and is introduced to two people with major sociopathic problems. Nick has married a woman ,Amy -she has been brought up to be the major character in her parents books. Nick moved his wife from New York City to his hometown in Missouri after they both lost their jobs and Nick's mother got sick. Amy had been the one with the inherited money. The first chapter sets the scene with her disappearance and Nick's thoughts about their situation. The reader might decide early in the novel that Nick probably killed his wife. Undated diary excerpts then present Amy's side of the story. The pace is good and the story does have an unsettling conclusion. The book has been very popular but I waited until it was published in paperback. I am glad that I did.

43judylou
Maio 9, 2014, 7:57 pm

Ah yes, Gone Girl was a great read at the time . . . but now it is only a vague memory.

I really must get to Americanah. I have the ebook. No excuse!

44torontoc
Maio 13, 2014, 10:57 am

34. Gold Boy, Emerald Girl stories by Yiyun Li. I am a fan of short stories and i just discovered this author who set her work in both China and the US. These stories are about relationships. The interesting characteristic that I read in the work was the wistfulness about failed chances or choices that led to solitude or loneliness. The novella that anchors this collection-Kindness- has to reveal a very sad woman who has rejected overtures of friendship and help through out her life. Lovely writing and language.

45torontoc
Maio 20, 2014, 9:37 am

35. Journey to the Abyss: The Diaries of Count Harry Kessler 1880-1918 edited by Laird M. Easton This book was almost 900 pages in length- I felt as if I was reading the equivalent of three books. A friend gave it to me and I appreciate the thought. The diaries drew me into the world of the Belle Epoque and the period before and during the first world war. Kessler was the 1900's real life Zelig ( the film by Woody Allen). He really did know everybody associated with dance,
( Diaghilev, Nijinsky, Isadora Duncan ) theatre, ( Gordon Craig, Max Reinhardt) letters ( Bernard Shaw) music( Strauss) and art ( Rodin, Denis, Malliol, Munch). Kessler's mother was English and his father German. He was raised in Paris and went to school in England and Germany. Kessler was involved in co-writing the scenarios for operas and ballet, establishing a private printing press, the management of a museum in Weimar and more. He travelled around the world as a young man. bought and commissioned art and wrote extensive diaries during his life time. This volume contains the edited diaries from his youth to just after the end of the first world war. There are many,many entries about Kessler's dinners and lunches ( always at illustrious homes and clubs in Paris, London and Berlin) and visits to artist's studios. He really knew everybody in the fields of politics , the military and culture. Kessler was an officer in the German army stationed in both the eastern and then western fronts during the war. He had been turned down for diplomatic posts early in his career but was posted as the cultural attache at the end of the war to Switzerland. He was supposed to help win over the Swiss by showcasing German culture. There was opposition to his work by foes in Germany who were suspicious of modern art and theatre. The diaries reveal an educated young man who was also a snob about society and somewhat of an anti-semite. The editor does make comments about this trait , noting that Kessler's friendship with Walter Rathenau,-a politician and German Jew who was assassinated after the war,-led Kessler to write a biography about his friend. Still , the comments that Kessler makes about the people( women, various nationalities) that he meets show a point of view that belongs to the world of the 19th century. I gather that his diaries after 1918 show a different point of view -so much that he was called " The Red Count' I also found Kessler's thoughts about the place of Germany, England, France, Austria "America" and Russia during the last days of the war to be totally misguided in terms of what actually happened. In all , I enjoyed the book after the entries from his early years (too many parties) and will continue to read about this time. Next up Margaret MacMillan's book on the same time period.

46torontoc
Maio 21, 2014, 1:54 pm

36. The Last Kashmiri Rose by Barbara Cleverly After my last book read, i needed sonething more in the line of a mystery. This novel fit the bill as the author writes about India in 1922 and a visiting English ploice detective Joe Sandilands. This story is the first in a series. The story is of lurid but fun to read. Sandilands is sent to a an army town and asked to look into the death of a woman who drowned in her bath However, Sandilands discovers that there is a series of deaths of wives of officers- all deliberate. The resolving of the case involves revenge although the end is a little melodramatic.

47ronincats
Maio 21, 2014, 3:19 pm

Stopping by to congratulate you on your reading to date--a very nice mix! And you are right on track to make 100 easily.

48torontoc
Maio 29, 2014, 10:40 am

thanks!

37. The Invisible Woman by Claire Tomalin. i saw the film based on this book first last year at the Toronto film festival. I have been interested in reading this account of the relationship between Charles Dickens and Nelly Ternan. The author gives very good background information on the role and status of actresses in the Victorian times. She also recreates the story of how Ternan and Dickens met and tries to account for the 12 years of their relationship and the way Nelly disappears from public site. Tomalin continues Nelly's story and that of her family after Dickens dies and the reader learns of her marriage, children and life. I found this biography and history really interesting. The role of a woman and choices open to her during Victorian times are sad in comparison to lives lived today. Tomalin writes how Nelly and her sisters were able to have more freedom as actresses but were still bound by conventions of the time.

49torontoc
Editado: Jun 1, 2014, 9:01 am

38. All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews I haven't read anything by Miriam Toews in a while but this book is terrific-the language, the wonderful characters and the heartbreaking plot. Apparently the author did have a sister who did commit suicide. The narrator, Yoli, has an older sister who was a superb and famous pianist. However, Elf is also suicidal and the early chapters are set in Winnipeg where Elf is in a hospital after one attempt. Yoli has come from her home in Toronto to be with her sister and mother. Yoli's life has been kind of messy- divorced from two former husbands, and unwise decisions about love and career( Yoli carries a shopping bag with an unfinished novel in it around with her). Family is a really important theme in this novel about the kind of life we choose to live- Yoli's mother is a wonderful character who is a survivor and Yoli's two children play a supportive rolein her life. All are Mennonites and the church's rules provide anther underlying theme on how we copy with tragedy. Yoli and Elf's father committed suicide years ago. The narrator is not perfect and kind of quirky in her actions and thoughts. The writing and thoughts in this novel are really good- Highly recommended.

50torontoc
Jun 1, 2014, 9:01 am


39. The Hired Man by Aminatta Forna Forna has written a very good and disturbing novel about a small village in present day Croatia. Duro is the narrator, a man who knows the secrets about the lives of the villagers of Gost. He befriends an English woman, Laura and her children, who have bought and are living in a house that he knows well. Duro becomes the handy man, fixing and restoring the house for the family. The reader learns about Duro's past and his relationship to some of the villagers, including his childhood friend, Krseimir and his sister Anya and the tavern owner, Fabjan. The civil war that divided the former Yugoslavia intrudes on the present and past as people are singled out and taken from their homes. Duro relates these stories and we see what an impact the war had on life in the area. Gullt, blame, revenge and witnessing are strong themes that direct the plot of this well told story, Definitely worth reading.

51torontoc
Jun 2, 2014, 10:53 am

40.The Marrying of Chani Kaufman by Eve Harris This novel is about the courtship of two young ultra-orthodox Jews in London. The contrasting and powerful second theme relates the past history and present life of the Rabbi's wife. Harris writes about the stresses of living the perceived proper life in this very strict community. There have been some accounts and films that document the lives of Orthodox Jews who rebel or have been "cast out" so to speak. In this story, the author gives the reader hope for those characters who will create a life that will work within the rules and be fulfilling. She also shows how one major character will not necessarily survive in this community as a result of giving up too much and losing faith.

52torontoc
Jun 5, 2014, 1:20 pm

41. The Blood Royal by Barbara Cleverly This is the second in a series featuring Detective Joe Sandilands. The time is 1922 in London and Joe is trying to solve the mystery of one murder of an Admiral and threats against the royal family. He enlist the help of Constable Lili Wentworth. There is a mysterious Russian woman involved in all the crimes. Here is where the plot goes nuts- literally. The twists and turns are really not believable. I did like the first in the series but this story got much too complicated and ridiculous- a shame because the two main characters did have a lot of promise.

53wookiebender
Jun 8, 2014, 7:38 am

48> I didn't realise the movie was based on a book. I'll keep my eyes open for the book, it sounds good.

54torontoc
Jun 9, 2014, 8:58 am

42. The Bees by Laline Paull. I really liked this very unusual novel. The story revolves around the life of Flora 717, a worker bee in a beehive. The reader follows Flora in her adventures as she spends time in the bee nursery, works as a sanitation worker and later as a forager.The reader sees the cycle of life in the hive and the way that the thousands of bees follow direction. Flora is more of an adventurer as she has qualities that are different than the rest of her fellow workers. How this dilemma is resolved for her and the hive is very dramatic.The issues of class and blind obedience as well as independent thinking are very powerful themes. Highly recommended.( the description of the behaviour of the drones is hilarious at first- later.. you will see)

55torontoc
Jun 9, 2014, 8:42 pm

43.A Basket of Apples Stories by Shirley Faessler This collection has just been republished. The author had these stories first published in 1988. She had written works that were first seen in leading magazines when she was 60 years old. Shirley Faessler was born in Toronto, grew up in Kensington Market, travelled in Europe and later she ran a boarding house for actors and dancers. Her stories are somewhat autobiographical as she wrote about immigrant families living and struggling to make a living. The same characters appear in all of her stories in this collection-the father who goes from low paying job to job, the stepmother with troubling relatives- bootleggers and poseurs and the newly arrived who have problems of their own. Expertly told, these stories give the reader a sense of the way people lived in the 1920's and 30's in Toronto.

56torontoc
Jun 13, 2014, 4:38 pm

44. The Exile Book of Yiddish Women Writers edited by Frieda Johles Forman This is a reread of this collection of short stories translated from the Yiddish to English by a group of translators. I reread it because my book club is hosting one of the translators at our meeting. The idea of saving the literary work of writers who used a language that is not accessible to a wider audience is a worthy assignment. This volume is the second book that has been produced. The writing of previously unknown writers is now available to a new group of readers.

57torontoc
Jun 18, 2014, 4:53 pm

45. Tracks by Robyn Davidson This memoir published in 1980 has just been reissued in time for the film that just been released. The story is about a young Australian woman who decides to learn how to work with camels and then walk across the desert with a few of them. Davidson writes about moving to a remote town and her struggles to learn how to work with camels and her problems in setting up her travel. She seems to like being alone( literally) and the trek that she does take ( with the help of National Georgraphic Magazine as she starts her journey) is hard. She does reach her goal but with some heartache. This is an interesing account as Davidson really does bare her soul in describing her experiences.

58torontoc
Jun 24, 2014, 8:29 am

46. The Harmony Silk Factory by Tash Aw. This was an interesting narration- the book was divided into three parts- each telling essentially the same story from a different point of view. The first narrative introduces the reader to Johnny Lim- a merchant who rose from a deprived early life to take over and thrive in business in Malaysia. He has recently died and his son reveals all the rumours and terrible things that Johnny did to get ahead. The son, whose mother died in childbirth, was estranged from his father. the second sections is told from the point of the mother and her journey with her husband and three other friends. One- Mr.Kumichika.is a Japanese professor who will eventually be in charge of the area when the Japanese take over Malaysia during the second world war. There are two catastrophic events that take place during that journey. The third narration ( which proves to be somewhat unsettling ) is that of an expatriate Englishman, Peter Wormwood who gives the reader a different point of view on the trip and what happens. I found that the description of Johnny much too cryptic- the reader really doesn't know what drives or troubles him. Still, an interesting story.

47. Longbourn by Jo Baker I really enjoyed this story about the servants of Longbourn, the home of the Pride and Prejudice Bennet family. The author imagines what went on behind the scenes and introduces sxome very interesting speculation about the main characters as we see the servants cleaning and making the family's life comnfortable. The imaginings about Sarah, Polly-the maids and the Hills make the book a great read for me.

59torontoc
Jun 27, 2014, 9:31 am

48. The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson. I wasn't sure what I was getting into when I started to read this book. It was initially on the booklist for my book club- we hire a very good reviewer and this was her recommendation. For the first time, the reviewer emailed my group and changed the book. I gather that the other groups who were reading the book had objections to the details on kidnapping and torture. I read it and had different impressions from the beginning to the end. in the first chapters, I thought that the grinding poverty of life in North Korea was really the subject. Then the story of Pak Jun Do takes on a more surrealistic vision with humour mixed with terrible deeds. In fact, the narrative started to remind me of the satiric work of Christopher Moore Jun Do's work runs from kidnapping Japanese citizens to recording radio signals and eventually a stint in a prison camp. He makes a trip to a Texas ranch as part of an official North korean visit and later ends up impersonating a vicious public official. The characters give the reader for all the bizarre plot twists, into the lives of a very regulated society.Highly recommended but painful to read.

60torontoc
Jun 30, 2014, 9:22 am

49. The Good Doctor by Damon Galgut. This is one of those narratives where the narrator is somewhat creepy. Frank is a doctor working at a remote hospital in a " former homeland of South Africa" to quote the book's introduction. This hospital is really a sham as there are usually no patients and anyone with a serious illness is sent to a better equipped place in another town. Minimally managed and with the building parts literally stolen away, the hospital doesn't seem to have a reason for being there. In fact the physical setting seems to mirror the four doctors and their reasons for staying. Frank is a loner but finds his solitude broken when a young doctor, Laurence is assigned to the place for a year. Laurence is also a cipher- cheerful and optimistic but somewhat careless in his actions. Frank is a forced friend but resentful of Laurence and his ideas. The plot becomes more tense and there is a sense of the sinister unknown when the reader encounters the newly arrived soldiers in a formerly deserted town as well the mysterious Brigadier and cruel Colonel. The end is a little puzzling. The prose is eloquent and the characters well described. An interesting read.

61torontoc
Jul 1, 2014, 7:36 am


50. The Mirrored World by Debra DeanI like a good historical fiction novel, This slim volume by Dean relates the story of Xenia- a real mystic who was active during the reign of Catherine the Great in Russia. The narration is told by her cousin, Dasha. The story takes place during the reign of previous rulers,Anna, and Elizabeth. The reader learns about the customs of the upper middle class and Xenia's early life, her tragedies and how they change her life. I gather from the end notes that the figure of Xenia was mysterious. This reimagining of her life does give more weight to the story of her cousin. I think that Dean writes well but I did want more. The ending worked for the novel but I would have liked more work on the figure of Xenia herself.

62torontoc
Jul 1, 2014, 8:20 pm

51. Benediction by Kent Haruf As I was reading this book, I thought that it reminded me of something else- soap operas? But no, I thought of the play by Thornton Wilder called Our Town. I believe that this author was after the same effect. An elderly man in a very small town is dying and the reader learns of his past and conflicts. His wife is holding out and his daughter comes back from Denver to help care for him. The son, Frank is estranged from the family and never does learn of his father's illness. The stories of a new preacher and his family and their problems and two ladies-mother and daughter- who are friends in town are revealed as the we read of flash backs that show the backgrounds of all the characters. The style reminds of a drama although I think that Our Town did the same in a much better way- in fact I think that I want to reread it. So, a story about everyday drama in the lives of not very remarkable people is told well. However, I liked this book with reservations.

63torontoc
Jul 10, 2014, 9:00 pm

52. Strange images of Death by Barbara Cleverly This is real summer read with Detective Joe Sandilands again- this time in 1926. Joe solves a grisly murder at a castle in Provence inhabited with artists, the aristocratic owner and his half brother and of course , everyone has a secret. Joe is not as obnoxious as he was in the last book and the crime is a little over the top. But I forgive a lot in books read in this season.

64torontoc
Jul 15, 2014, 7:13 pm

53. Delicious a novel by Ruth Reichl I really did like this book. The author is known as the last editor of Gourmetmagazine and a noted food critic. This story is a little sentimental but I liked the subplot about the young girl who wrote to James Beard during World War Two. I could guess what the mystery was about the main character- a young woman named Billie, who works as an assistant to the ediitor of "Delicious" magazine and is the only one still working after the publisher shuits the magazine down. The mystery of Billie's history along with the solving of the questions surrounding the letters found the in magazine's library makes this book a good summer read.

65torontoc
Jul 20, 2014, 9:50 am

I usually don't review many children's books but these two are terrific and worth noting for adults. ( I have a collection of storybooks that I use in my teaching of teachers)

54. Jane, the fox and Me by Fanny Britt, illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault and translated by Christelle Morelli andSusan Ouriou from the French. Isabelle Arsenault has illustrated many other children's books and her style is very distinctive. The author, Fanny Britt is a playwright and this is her first graphic novel. I liked this story as it combines both the themes of bullying, friendship and reading with thought. Helene is a young girl in high school. Her former friends have now excluded her from their group and play cruel tricks on her. Helene retreats into her own world , showing the reader her life with her mother and younger brothers . Helene has been reading Jane Eyre and her thoughts on Jane's life and actions form part of the story as well. Things change for Helene when she goes on a school camping trip. She is in the tent with the other excluded girls. How Helene sees how to change her life and make better decisions make for a satisfying conclusion. ( as well as looking closely and critically at the actions of Jane in the novel)

55. Rules of Summer by Shaun Tan I love the work of this writer and illustrator. His work combines both whimsy and a good measure of surrealism. This book shows the lessons that two boys have learned over the summer.The images are both bizarre and funny. Tan's book The Arrival is the best depiction of an immigrant experience in a new country. This book is not as deep but still worth examining.

66torontoc
Jul 25, 2014, 8:39 am

56. Angel of Vengeance The Girl Who shot the Governor of St. Petersburg and Sparked the Age of Assassination by Ana Siljak I have been reading this work for a while. The author does more than just write about the life of Vera Zasulich- a Russian woman who did shoot General Trepov in 1878. Siljak sets the scene for the development of unrest in Russia by tracing the writers and would be revolutionary groups and individuals who were trying the change Russia. She develops the theory that Vera Zasulich's motives and expectations of her possible fate after she completes her mission would inspire future actions by later revolutionary groups. In fact the idea of dying for the cause is a tactic that the world has witnessed in our times. A very interesting read.

67torontoc
Jul 26, 2014, 11:02 am

57. Old School by Tobias Wolff I hadn't read anything by Wolff for a few years- I was reminded by the novel what a good writer he is! The language and structure of the work are indeed masterful. Wolff recreates the world of a elite boys school in 1960. The narrator has won a scholarship to the school and relates his literary history there. He becomes part of a group that manages the school magazine and vies for the privilege of a private meeting with a famous writer. The school has a history of asking famous writers and poets to visit the school, read submissions by the students and choose one for this important meeting. Wolff uses Robert Frost and Ayn Rand and later Ernest Hemingway as writers who will visit the school. Wolff writes about a world where writing matters and the style of writers influence the leading students in the school. As well, the deceptions that both the narrator and later the teachers practice to hide background and actions lead to a betrayal that changes their lives. A beautiful book and worth reading.

68torontoc
Jul 30, 2014, 6:58 pm

58. Caught by Lisa Moore This novel is very unlike the previous works by Moore. It is a story of a journey taken by the main character David Slaney. He has escaped from jail and is travelling across Canada to meet up with his friend Hearn. Hearn and Slaney had been captured after they tried to bring in a boat full of drugs from Columbia. Hearn had jumped bail and had been hiding for four years. Slaney had been sentenced to jail and escaped after serving these same four years. Both Hearn and Slaney didn't know that they were being tracked by the police. The story follows Slaney as he tried to connect with an old girlfriend and later encounters some strange characters as he helps steer a new boat filled with drugs to Canada. Well told and a good read.

69torontoc
Ago 10, 2014, 4:30 pm

59. A Most Wanted Man by John Le Carre I must admit that I picked this book up because I wanted to read the story before I saw the film. I liked the suspense and the descriptions of the main characters. Issa is a mysterious and slightly addled illegal immigrant showing up in Hamburg. He says that he is Muslim but lacks a lot of religious knowledge. Tommy Bure is a Scottish banker who manages a small failing private bank- his father was responsible for creating a safe haven for the money of Russian mobsters as Tommy discovers. Annabel Richter is a lawyer given the job of helping Issa become legal and advising Issa to claim the millions in Russian mob money owed to his dead father. Overseeing the events that attract all the spies from the Germans, Americans and British is Gunther Bachmann of the German Hamburg office. The twists and turns of the plot work well but I was disappointed in the climax of the story- I thought that it was ...too easy and shut down some for the most interesting part of the plot. Still a good read until the end.

70torontoc
Ago 12, 2014, 10:46 pm

60.Night Film by Marisha Pessl. I enjoyed the suspense and the twisted plot of this novel. A journalist, Scott McGrath decides to investigate the suicide of a young woman, Ashley Cordova- the daughter of a reclusive film maker. McGrath's career had been derailed years ago by the film maker who might have set McGrath up. Cordova made a small group of films that in some cases were only shown to a select few. The actors in these stories of deprived life and uneasy themes always had their lives changed by the experience. McGrath reopened his investigations into the work of Cordova as he thought that there was a mystery to be solved about the lives of Cordova and his family. In the course of this work McGrath befriends two young people- one , Hopper had been with Ashley in a wilderness camp and the other, Nora had seen Ashley in her last sighting before her death. The story leads the characters to a mysterious estate in the Adirondacks where Cordova made all his films and to various people who witnessed the lives of the people involved in Ashley's life. The unlikely investigating group of three encounter stories of black magic, curses and lives ruined. The descriptions are vivid and the main character, Scott is not perfect but does seem to learn some life lessons.The author also uses visual images of newspaper and magazine pages and photos. A very interesting novel!

71torontoc
Ago 14, 2014, 10:18 am

61. Search and Rescue by Gail Anderson-Dargatz I must admit that when I saw this Early Reviewer book arrive in the mail- I was surprised. It is a very slim volume with big print and only 102 pages in length. I decided to do some research when I saw that this book- the first in a series about a woman reporter, Claire Abbott- was also part of Orca Book Publisher's "Rapid Reads" series. Rapid Reads books are geared for the "struggling reader". Well, that is not me- I love books or tomes with complex plots and can handle 500-800 pages in length. I thought that I would have to approach this story with a different set of critical eyes. Can a novel give the reader enough in plot and character development and still be written to attract a beginning reader? With this set of criteria I read the book. Claire Abbott is a reporter in a small town in a mountainous area. She also has a reputation of having a sixth sense- similar to that of her mother. Claire and her mother have been able to find missing people or alert the police to emergency situations. Sometimes this sense is not always right and the police and search and rescue teams don't always believe Claire and her mother. In this case a high school student, Amber has gone missing. Claire seems to see what has happened after touching a piece of Amber's clothing. The Search and Rescue team are looking on the mountain roads but Claire thinks that Amber has been kidnapped. What she does and how the event is resolved involve danger, adventure and finally a good solution. I think that the author ( whose earlier books that are not part of this series and are excellent) has done a great job using this very limited format. Am I the customer that the publisher is looking for? I don't think so. But the targeted audience will appreciate this work.

72torontoc
Ago 16, 2014, 10:24 am

62. Baldwin Street by Alvin Rakoff. The author used to live in Toronto ( he has been a director and writer in England for many years) and this book is really not a novel but a series of short stories or vignettes. Rakoff uses the same families to structure the incidents and personalities that he writes about -they all live on Baldwin Street in Kensington Market in Toronto. The reader certainly learns about the poverty and hardships that these Jewish immigrants faced in the first part of the 20th century.Many struggled to maintain small grocery or fruit stores and were always in debt. The stories of the children -growing up and making a better life for themselves -and their parents who had dramatic and some times tragic histories take the reader through a mini- history of Kensington Market in Toronto. Rakoff used a mix of real and fictional names in his work. I also thought that some if not many of the stories were based on real incidents that the author may have witnessed. I enjoyed this book and think that it gives life to the history of Kensington Market.

73torontoc
Ago 17, 2014, 2:26 pm

63. I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai and Christina Lamb. I got this book as a gift. The story of the young girl who was targeted and shot by the Taliban for speaking out for the education of girls is well known. Still, it is a rare event for a sixteen year old to write ( with the help of a journalist) a memoir. The story is interesting as the book outlines not only the story about Malala's family ( and specifically her father) but also the history of the strife in the Swat Valley of Pakistan. I learned about the rivalries of the different religious groups and the role of the army. Malala and her father are heroic in their championship of schooling for girls in Pakistan. The story is one that should be told.

74Helenliz
Ago 17, 2014, 3:14 pm

>73 torontoc: that's on my agenda too. I saw this obituary recently, which is the same area Malala is from. It does show how things had changed.

75torontoc
Editado: Ago 17, 2014, 5:21 pm

64. The Sweet Girl by Annabel Lyon Lyon writes about the daughter of Aristotle-Pythias. Pythias has been taught to read and is interested in anatomy. She has read her father's books and is probably his most learned pupil. The author follows the family as they leave Athens after the death of Alexander the Great and return to the Macedonian town of Chalcis. Pythias finds that her life turns upside down after the death of her father. She should be married to her cousin Nicanor but he has been in the army and no one knows where he is. The author gives us a survivor who makes hard choices as she is no longer a privileged member of a wealth family.
An interesting imagining of the life of Aristotle's daughter but the plot and characters are not as good as those in her previous novel The Golden Mean. The author does give us a very modern woman who makes untraditional choices.

76torontoc
Ago 28, 2014, 11:56 am

65.The War that Ended Peace The Road to 1914 by Margaret MacMillan This was a very engrossing history of the manoeuvres by various European countries in the decade before the beginning of the First World War. MacMillan is a very precise historian- she writes about the government officials and the heads of state and their plans and fears about dominating or being dominated. The war was initiated by a number of officials reacting to events but they really did not understand the changes in technology that would make this war different. The enormous loss of life and the length of the war was not anticipated by the major players in Europe. The massive changes in society and the role of the individual countries also changed. MacMillan writes about too many leaders who used the idea of making war as a solution to problems. Her last sentences are telling"First, a failure of imagination in not seeing how destructive such a conflict would be, and second, their lack of courage to stand up to those who said there was no choice left but to go to war. There are always choices" (page 645) An excellent book to read in the study of the First World War.

77torontoc
Ago 31, 2014, 10:22 am

66. Prisoner of Tehran by Marina Nemat. I read this memoir because I went to a talk by the author-a very engaging woman. Marina Nemat's story is horrific- a young girl who is imprisoned for life because she rebelled in high school in Iran. Nemat leads a walkout in her class as the ill-equipped teacher does not teach the subject but spouts the Islamic party line. Many young people who participated in marches against the regime in Iran were tortured, put in prison and executed or given long prison sentences. What makes Nemat's story is different as how her guard, Ali, saves her life , then asks Marina to marry him. Marina is really not given a choice- if she does not convert to Islam and marry, then her parents and former boyfriends will be harmed. The account of the marriage, life in prison, Ali's assassination and the help given to Marina by Ali's parents makes for a bizarre story. However, Marina is a survivor and does immigrate to Canada where she eventually writes about her life. This is a very interesting memoir with themes of seemingly harmless actions provoking terrible consequences and the mix of good and evil in some people.

78torontoc
Set 1, 2014, 9:13 am

67. After Tehran A Life Reclaimed by Marina Nemat. The author continues her story after she and her family immigrate to Canada. She details her life in Toronto and how she eventually decides that she has to tell her story of imprisonment in jail in Iran. Nemat lives the life of a housewife, taking care of her children and working part time as a waitress. When she enrols in writing classes , the author finds mentors who encourage her. Marina Nemat finds a publisher for her book and the success of her work is chronicled in this memoir. I think that the book answers a lot of questions that reader may have after reading her book Prisoner of Tehran. Nemat also writes about encounters with some of the people who she knew in Iran. This memoir does tend to be a little rambling and not as tightly constructed as her first book.

79torontoc
Set 3, 2014, 3:42 pm

68. A Tale For The time Being by Ruth Ozeki. This novel has a number of themes and the reader is introduced to two main settings-an island off the West coast of British Columbia and Tokyo sometime before the tsunami. Ruth is a writer living with her partner, Oliver on a secluded island. She finds a plastic bag on the beach The bag that protects a Hello Kitty box and a number of letters , diaries and a watch, probably came over from Japan after the tsunami. Ruth's reading of the diary lead the reader to the story of Nao Yasutani , a teenager who writes about her life. The story that the reader and Ruth follow is not a happy one. Nao was brought up in the US when her father was working for a dot-com company. After he is fired the family goes back to live in Tokyo where Nao is really an outcast in her school and she is bullied horribly. Her father tries to commit suicide a number of times. While Ruth reads about Nao's life , she also tries to track down the family and find out about the letters and the second diary that is written in French. Through Nao, we meet her great grandmother, a buddhist nun who helps give Nao courage.The two stories and the concept of time are threads that lead to a sense of how the family survived the emotional turmoil of life after coming back to Japan. Another story that we learn about is that of the father's uncle who was a suicide bomber during World War Two. I didn't mind the ending. It was not one of my" the author didn't know how to end the story". However, it did introduce a theme or question that the fictional writer , Ruth and Oliver did discuss late in the novel.
I would have liked another kind of conclusion but can be satisfied with the one presented.The themes and information are very complex with thoughts on Buddhism, language, science, nature and time.

80torontoc
Set 3, 2014, 11:09 pm

69. Berlin Stories by Robert Walser These stories or very brief prose pieces were mainly translated by Susan Bernofsky. I found that this very slim volume of prose pieces was supposed to describe life in Berlin around 1907-14. There were a few stories that did invoke the sense of the city. I thought that most of the descriptions could have been used for any city-they didn't have the feeling or mood of this particular city-Berlin. Walser, a Swiss writer lived in Berlin for a short period of time and did have contacts with the theatrical world through his brother. I wasn't moved by this collection and have found other books that gave me a better sense of Berlin society.

81torontoc
Editado: Set 16, 2014, 9:44 pm

70. Birthday Letters by Ted Hughes. I have not been reading poetry for a number of years. It is just one of those things- an enthusiasm that has not been with me for a while. I just picked up this volume out of curiosity. After reading these highly charged poems about Hughes relationship with his first wife-Sylvia Plath, I had to research their very public and dramatic history. Hughes published this intimate memoir of poems about Plath in 1998-the year that he died. The themes describe Plath's demons, her feelings about her father, her suicide and the life that Hughes and Plath led in the US and England. They are very powerful and certainly sweep the reader through the rocky history of their life together.

82torontoc
Set 15, 2014, 2:15 pm

71. Violins of Hope: Violins of the Holocaust-Instruments of Hope and Liberation in Mankind's Darkest Hour by James A. Grymes. This history tracks the stories of people who played the violin ( and some other instruments) and how that skill may have saved them during the Holocaust. The author begins by relating the story of Amnon, his father Moshe and his son Avshalom Weinstein of Tel Aviv. Amnon and his son track down and restore violins that were played by Jewish musicians during the Holocaust. Many of the restored instruments are used in concerts today. The stories include a history of the orchestras in concentration camps as well as individual accounts of musicians and their lives during World World Two. this book suitable for young adult audiences.

72. Northwest Passage by Stan Rogers and Matt James. Matt James has taken the song by Stan Rogers and illustrated a children's book as well as adding historical information on the story of the expedition and more on other explorers. This book is interesting as one of the two lost ships was recently found by a Canadian expedition. The illustrations are beautiful and the extra information gives the reader a good background on exploration as well as what went wrong with Franklin's ships. ( they didn't use the expertise of the Inuit people and resorted to bringing tins of food sealed with lead and woollen garments-they should have had fur) A very timely and lovely book.

83torontoc
Set 18, 2014, 11:31 am

73. Stone Mattress: Nine Tales by Margaret Atwood. This book of short stories is great Margaret Atwood. The stories are extremely well crafted and diverse-from a horror tale of a world movement that attacks old people to a series of three linked stories about 1960's writers and their lovers and the aftermath. The author also includes a story based on her characters from The Robber Bride. From the perfect murder on a cruise to a story about a dead bridegroom found in a storage locker, Margaret Atwood writes with humour and creates great scenarios.
A great read.

84torontoc
Set 18, 2014, 3:34 pm

74. Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi The title refers to the three main characters and narrators in the novel. Boy Novak is a young woman who escapes from a terrible father and goes to live in a small town in Massachusetts. She marries Arturo Whitman a widower with a beautiful daughter named Snow. When Boy and Arturo have a child,the baby girl,named Bird is black. The secret of the Whitman family is revealed as they have passed as white and sent any family who looks black away from the town. In a reversal, Boy sends Snow to live with her aunt and uncle in Boston. The discovery of secrets and the relationship between mother and daughters as well as sisters makes this novel really interesting.

85torontoc
Set 20, 2014, 7:17 am

and here is book number
75. Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salmon Rushdie
Rushdie wrote this book as a present to his son, I believe.( correct me if I am wrong) It is a lovely story about a young man, Haroun and how he tries to help his father- a famous story teller who has lost his stories. Haroun travels to a world on a second moon where there is a country with constant day-Gup and one of darkness- Chup. He meets mechanical beings and a very strange group who have to rescue a princess and save the Sea of Stories from being polluted and destroyed. Great story for the 8 to 10 year age group. If they are reading the Wizard of Oz series , this is right for them.

86torontoc
Set 24, 2014, 9:05 am


76. The Betrayers a novel by David Bezmozgis. I enjoyed this novel. I found it really a meditation on guilt, remorse, forgiveness, and the awareness and repercussions of one's actions. The novel is build on the past actions of two main characters. Baruch Kotler is a former Soviet Jewish dissident who was in prison for 14 years. When he was released, he went to live in Israel and became a respected politician. His life has come apart as he refused to support the Prime Minister and was threatened with blackmail, His relationship with a young mistress was exposed. Kotler and Leora, the young woman who he had an affair with, flee to Yalta in the Crimea. They arrange to stay in a room in a private house unaware the that one of the owners is the man who betrayed Kotler to the KGB many years ago. The story of this man, Tankilelvich ,the reasons for his action, and his present day burden make up the second main theme that connects to Kotler's story. Kotler has to deal with the betrayal of his wife and the moral dilemma of his son. All these threads are worked together in the course of the novel. A very interesting work.

87torontoc
Set 28, 2014, 1:28 pm

77. W Hour by Arthur Ney Arthur Ney has written his memoir about living in the Warsaw Ghetto, his escape and life until the end of World War Two. His memoir is part of a series published by the Azrieli Series of Holocaust Survivor Memoirs. The story is really about a resourceful young boy who happens to be outside of the ghetto when the Ghetto uprising started. Arthur's father had the foresight to buy false identification documents for his son when Arthur began smuggling goods to and from the ghetto. As well, Arthur spoke Polish without any identifiable Jewish accent. He was lucky to have help from sympathetic Poles - from the farmer who employed him in the summer to people who knew his father before the war. Arthur was able to live in a seminary for orphans and go to school. As well, through a series of coincidences, Arthur was reunited with his Uncle and Aunt and immigrated to Canada.
I read another memoir in this series a number of years ago. Keeping these stories alive is a very important task of this foundation.

88torontoc
Out 1, 2014, 7:58 pm

78. Egg and Spoon by Gregory Maguire. Whe I first started reading Gregory Maguire, I really liked his books. Later, I found some of his re-engineered fairy tales a little obscure. I loved Wickedand some of the later series but found the final book not very satisfying. This new tale is wonderful. Maguire takes on the Russian story of Baba Yaga and creates a fascinating world where fantasy and fact intersect. Two girls, through an accident, manage to switch places. Elena is a peasant girl trying to take care of her sick mother in a tiny village where everyone is starving. Cat is a very wealthy young lady traveling on a train to St. Petersburg where she will be presented to the Tsar and his godson. The train is stranded in the tiny town and the two girls become acquainted. An accident occurs and Elena is speeding off in the train and Cat is stuck in the tiny town. When Cat tries to follow the train tracks , she is taken in by Baba Yaga, her talking kitten and a walking house with chicken legs. How the two girls meet and how they take a journey with Baba Yaga and others to find out why the weather has not behaved normally is a journey into the nature of living. Baba Yaga is a great character using anachronisms to illustrate her points of view. I really enjoyed this imaginative story and the lessons taught by the author.

89torontoc
Out 2, 2014, 8:38 pm

79. The Heist by Daniel Silva I guess that this series about spies is my guilty pleasure. The plot is easy to follow but sometimes I wish that there was more on the art restoration. The stories about the spy Gabriel Allon are adventurous and are really good summer reads. But it was very warm today so maybe this was the last day of the summer season.

90torontoc
Out 2, 2014, 8:39 pm

touchstone on the title not working tonight

91torontoc
Out 5, 2014, 8:11 am

80. Between Gods by Alison Pick The author has written a very powerful and intimate account of a number of events in her life. Alison Pick had no idea that her grandparents and father were Jewish. Her grandparents narrowly escaped from Czechoslovakia just before World War Two and came to Canada. Her great grandparents delayed leaving although they had visas, were unable to leave and were killed. Alison's father found out only in his twenties about his heritage but also "kept the secret". This account covers the author's battle with depression and her desire to find out more about the Jewish religion and to convert. Alison Pick's story is complicated by her relationship to her partner and later husband who was very supportive but not sure if he would convert. There are many threads to follow in this engrossing account of the author, her family, her accomplishments, (during this time she was writing her book Far To Go).her discovery of family history and religion. A great read.

92torontoc
Out 8, 2014, 3:05 pm


81.Jews and Words by Amos Oz and Fania Oz-Salzberger I really liked this discourse on Jews and their relationship to words,books, and reading. The novelist and his daughter , the historian, cover a lot of themes including the role of women, time and continuity. This is a book that the reader goes back to because there might be some points that a second reading will illuminate. A very satisfying read!

93jfetting
Out 8, 2014, 3:22 pm

I've only read one of the Gabriel Allon books (Portrait of a Spy) not knowing it was part of a series - much less #11! - and I'm looking forward to reading more. Lots of fun.

94torontoc
Out 11, 2014, 11:12 am

They are good spy reads!

82.The Dinner a novel by Herman Koch I found this account almost hypnotic in the mood created by the unstable narrator. The surface structure is that of a dinner attended by Paul and his wife Claire with Paul's brother Serge and his wife Babette. However, there are more sinister themes present as Paul reveals his background and the horrible thing that his son and his nephew( Serge's son) did a few weeks earlier. The restaurant is very pretentious and the courses of food and this groups reactions lead to some very uncomfortable exchanges. The plot is shocking as both sets of parents have different ideas on how to protect their sons. The ending - you will have to read the book. This novel was a very suspenseful read.

95torontoc
Out 11, 2014, 11:13 am

hmm -try again with the touchstones
The Dinner a novel by Herman Koch

96torontoc
Out 13, 2014, 8:13 am

83. Mr. Mani by A.B. Yehoshua I have had this book on my "to be read pile" for a while. Yehoshua is one of those authors who is not afraid to work with different formats for his novels. I loved The Liberated Bride and this story is so different and fascinating. The author tells the stories of many generations of the Mani family who lived in Jerusalem and Greece. They are not all saints- in fact some make bad decisions and some are heroic. Their story is told by a number of characters who have had interactions with one of the Mani family. The stories are told but the reader only hears one half of the exchange. The stories start in 1983 and work back in time to 1848. In 1983 a young woman tells her mother about her visit to Judge Gavriel Mani- the father of her boyfriend. In 1944 ,a German soldier tells his grandmother about his encounter with the Mani family when he was hiding in Crete. In 1899, a young doctor tells his father about the unfortunate dealings with Dr. Moshe Mani in Switzerland and Jerusalem and his sister Linka's infatuation. and finally, in 1848 Abraham Mani tells a dying Rabbi about the death of his son Yosef Mani and the birth of his grandson in Jerusalem. The mood of the narrators was almost feverish as they told their stories. The city of Jerusalem was not presented in a romantic way at all- in fact it was presented as small and provincial in many of the narrations. The structure and stories were very interesting!

84. A Short History of Myth by Karen Armstrong This slim volume presents a history and definition of myth. Armstrong leads the reader through a brief history of early civilizations that the myths that guided them as well as a description of early religions. She ends by providing an account of some contemporary literature and an argument for the worth of myth in today's society. A good read.

97torontoc
Out 14, 2014, 9:58 am

85. Kicking the Sky by Anthony De Sa This novel is about a young Portuguese Canadian boy, Antonio, his family and friends during the time of a particularly terrible crime that took place in Toronto. In 1977 a young boy, Emanuel Jaques was killed and his body found on the rooftop of a " sex parlour" in Toronto. The men who killed him were found and tried. Since the boy was a member of the Portuguese community, the crime changed the way this new immigrant group brought up their children. De Sa's story reflects the concern of these families. Antonio didn't have the freedom to roam the back alleys of his neighbourhood and he had to be home after school. Of course, 12 year old boys found ways to get around these rules and Antonio's friends still met and climbed on garage roofs and visited. The story revolves around the friendship that Antonio and his friends, Ricky and Mannie made with James- a young man who rented one of the garages. James was not the best influence and led the boys into questionable situations. De Sa does not romanticize the lives of this community. There are abuses, neglect and some shocking events. Antonio, at one point finds himself the subject of veneration when he finds a shell with the portrait of Jesus on it and his father sets up a small shrine in his garage. A really interesting story that is one of the finalists for the City of Toronto Book Award this year

98torontoc
Out 16, 2014, 9:29 am

86.The Massey Murder:A Maid, Her Master and the Trial that Shocked a Country by Charlotte GrayThis history of a murder and trial that took place in Toronto in 1915 has a number of themes. The author's research included information on Canada's participation in the fighting of World War One, a brief history of the Massey family, the state of the newspaper rivalry in Toronto as well as the story of Carrie Davies, a young maid who shot her employer, Bert Massey. I really liked that additional information on the role of women in politics, and the "women's court" in Toronto. This book like Anthony De Sa's book. Kicking the Sky is a finalist in the Toronto Book Award- I'll report on the winner- I think that it will be announced tonight.

99torontoc
Out 17, 2014, 9:21 am

The Massey Murder won the Toronto Book Award

100torontoc
Out 20, 2014, 8:00 am

87. Mr. Selden's Map of China by Timothy Brook The author has written an interesting account about the history of a map of China donated to the Bodleian Library at Oxford in 1659. Brook looks into the history of the donor, John Selden, his contemporaries - including Ben Jonson, and King James 1 and the role of Western countries and trade in southeast Asia. The reader learns about mapping , early sea routes and more books written about sea routes. Brook also discovers a number of what he calls secrets from the map. In all, I enjoyed the way the author takes this map of China and works out to the owner and the history of trade, conquest and discovery.

101torontoc
Out 23, 2014, 3:14 pm

88. Us Conductors by Sean Michaels. This novel is on the shortlist for the 2014 Giller Prize and I agree with the choice. Michaels has written a fictional biography of the scientist Leon Termen. Termen was a Russian "Renaissance" man- a musician,an inventor, a scientist , a spy and a prisoner. Living in Russia during the time of Lenin, he invented the new musical instrument-the theremin. Leon had many talents and he was sent to the United States to make contacts with industrialists and in some way spy on the United States. He was sent with a handler as he didn't seem to have much in the way of organizing ability. The first half of the book is framed as a letter that Leon is writing to his beloved - a musician, Clara. Clara goes dancing with Leon as they explore the speakeasies of New York City in the 1920's. Leon's handler seems to be in charge of contracts and business dealings although Leon doesn't seem to have any money. Eventually a sympathetic New Yorker gives him a place to live and work where Termen gives music lessons and work on inventions. Clara doesn't return Leon's love and he finds that his life becomes more difficult during the 1930's. He is pressured to leave New York and return to the USSR. The second half of the book follows the inventor through the Gulag system and the work that he does for a new generation of the Soviet secret service. The language is precise and gives the reader a good sense of his longing for Clara and his confrontation with the inhuman conditions in the Soviet system. A really, really good read.

102torontoc
Out 28, 2014, 8:56 am


89. Through the Woods by Emily Carroll This is a really scary graphic novel. The illustrations are really interesting but the stories all end on a bad note-no one is happy here!. It is worth reading if the reader likes good graphic novel art but not for young children!

103torontoc
Editado: Out 31, 2014, 11:30 pm

90. C by Tom McCarthy( touchstones not working well tonight) I must admit that the author creates a dazzling description of science, anthropology, calculation, mathematics and history. Did I like this story about the life of Serge Carrafax? I am not sure. Certainly the descriptions of life in pre World War One England, the Great War, life in a prisoner of war camp, London in the twenties, and finally the role of Britain in Egypt are fascinating. I thought that one of the most interesting characters ( spoiler alert) was Sophie , Serge's older sister and she was done away with early in the novel. Again, this novel has a very unsatisfactory ending. ( not my first vote for authors who can't end a story well and take an easy way out but up there in the finals) I admire the prose but found that the information got in the way of the essential story. Interesting work in some ways.

104torontoc
Nov 5, 2014, 2:34 pm

91. Sweetland by Michael Crummey Michael Crummey is one of my favourite Canadian authors. He writes about Newfoundland and this story is his latest. In a way the novel reminds me of The Old Man and the Sea.Moses Sweetland is an elderly retired lighthouse keeper who lives on a remote island on the Newfoundland coast. There is a small struggling community as the reason for being on this island-the fishing- is no longer a viable industry. The reader learns about Sweetland's history and that of his family. His great nephew, Jesse is probably autistic and he talks to Sweetland's dead brother. The tangled stories of the various members of this community are related as Sweetland considers the latest offer from the provincial government. In order to resettle people who lived on remote islands or areas of the province, the government used to offer a buy out of about $100,000 . However, everyone on the island had to approve. Sweetland was the only holdout at the end and this fact soured his relationships with the community. How he solved his problem and vowed to live on the island alone form the basis of the second half of the book. The struggles and tragedies that are relived and remembered draw the reader to the stubborn character of Sweetland. ( I also learned a lot about survival)
An excellent read for me.

105torontoc
Nov 6, 2014, 11:02 am

92. The Wondrous Woo by Carrianne K.Y. Leung ( Hmm- someone spelled the author's name incorrectly somewhere in LT) I really liked this slim novel about Miramar Woo, the eldest daughter of the Woo family. Mr. Woo or Ba as the family called him, had immigrated to Canada with his wife and three children. They settled in the Toronto suburb of Scarborough and tried to live the Canadian life. Ba loved everything Canadian. The family also copes with their mother's occasional bouts of depression. Tragedy strikes when Mr. Woo is killed in a traffic accident. Right after this event, the two youngest children who are in their teens develop extraordinary gifts. The son, Darwin becomes a very talented musician and Sophia becomes a brilliant mathematician. Miramar, just about to leave for her first year of University in Ottawa doesn't seem to have any new talent. Miramar struggles with the loss of her father, and the new found fame of her brother and sister. Her life in university and her first love do not work out as she thought. Miramar eventually takes charge of her life, makes some major decisions and learns to cope with her family's problems. This book was a finalist for the Toronto Book Award this year. I thought that the writing and story were very touching and a rewarding read.

106torontoc
Nov 9, 2014, 10:36 am

93. The Blazing World by Siri Hustvedt This is an amazing book and I will look for the author's other works. Hustvedt has written a book within a book. At the beginning of this fictional compendium of personal diaries and interviews by and about the artist Harriet Burden, the reader learns the whole story of her life. The journals and interviews with Harriet's children, last lover and contemporaries illuminate the events that led to her decisions. Harriet was an artist who did not get good reviews and was ignored in her early career. An intense reader and intellectual,she was married to a very influential art dealer, Felix Lord. As a wife and mother she was silent about her own desires and ideas. When Felix died, Harriet reinvented her own life. She moved to Brooklyn and set up a large studio. Hustvedt has portrayed Harriet as a larger than life character -very tall with a shock of fuzzy hair and very loud. Harriet has determined to create art works that will be signed or purported to be the work of three male artists. She chose two young men for her first two pieces who go along with her idea- after all she lets them have the proceeds when the works sell and they have the fame as well. In fact Harriet's scheme, to show that male artists are recognized more than female, comes true, The fault in this plan lies in her third choice, the artist named Rune. He plays along with Harriet but takes charge when she wants to reveal her plan by blackmailing her. The themes of women remaining silent, the exchange of male/female roles and hypocrisy of the art world are all examined in this novel. Hustvedt also shows Harriet's extraordinary scholarship and study in her sources.( and by extension Hustvedt's own interests)
The book was named after one by a long forgotten scholar and English duchess. The idea of fame after death is explored in a fascinating way for me in this novel- highly recommended.

107torontoc
Nov 12, 2014, 1:24 pm

94. Irma Voth by Miriam Toews I pulled this book out of my book pile because of the impending Giller Prize. I really liked Toews current book All My Puny Sorrows and it was a strong contender for the Giller. ( didn't happen-Us Conductors won- which I liked , too) I have mixed feelings about this novel. Irma Voth is a nineteen year Mennonite living in Mexico with her family. She impulsively married a young man who then promptly deserted her. Her father disowned Irma but let her live in a house near his property. Irma seems to be make bad decisions as she takes a job as a translator for an avant-garde film director . The film is about Mennonites although the events surrounding the making of this movie take on a tragic-comic vein. Irma eventually escapes from her surroundings and takes her younger sisters with her. In a way, she is both courageous and crazy. The reader learns about the terrible action of Irma's father and Irma's role as well. I liked the writing of the ending better than some of the earlier work-Irma seemed too impulsive without thinking about consequences- a theme that did resonate at the end.

108torontoc
Nov 14, 2014, 5:09 pm

95. The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud- I reread this novel in order to do a book report for my book club. The story still resonates- the intent of the narrator- unstable or not? I found that this read through gave me time to look at the real sources- Alice Neel, Checkov, and more.

109torontoc
Nov 15, 2014, 1:27 pm

96. The New Yorker Book of the Teacher Cartoons. Sometimes when I am sick ( terrible cold) I just read what is nearby. My brother was putting in a new plug for me for my modem and I came across this very funny book of cartoons. The subject- dear to my heart- students, teachers and parents. So while I am in the midst of reading Burnt Shadows and enjoying the writing, this book ( a gift) hit the spot as I was having chicken soup and tea.

110torontoc
Editado: Nov 18, 2014, 8:26 am

97. Granta 102: The New Nature Writing. I used to love reading the latest issue of Granta. I learned about new authors to follow and issues that were interesting. Times have changed. I can now follow blogs and reviews that give me the same information and faster of course. Every once and a while I go back to Granta. Now this issue is from my TBR pile and is from 2008. Today the title would probably be The Environment" as oppose to the New Nature Writing. I liked some of the articles and memoirs by Jonathan Raban ( on the area surrounding Seattle) and Matthew Power on the south Bronx. Some of the other articles .. not so much. I think that today we look at the effect of human habits on the environment through a different lens. Still- an interesting compilation but not as directed as we would do today.

111torontoc
Editado: Nov 18, 2014, 8:32 am

98. The Sentimentalists by Johanna Skibsrud. This novel was part of two controversies in 2010. It won the Giller Prize but there were rumours that one of the jurors acted improperly- securing a contract for the novelist with her agent during the judging process. The second scandal was that the publisher was a very small press that refused to work with a larger company so that the book would be accessible to more readers. The winning of the Giller Prize usually means a rise in buying and recognition for the author. The press finally did work with another larger company and the book became widely available. As for the book- I admired the writing and the plot but it was not as wonderful to me as one of the other books on the shortlist Annabel. Skibsrud writes about a young woman and her relationship with her father, a veteran of the Vietnam war. The story is set in a small town on the St. Lawrence Seaway area in Ontario. I think that it helps to know that many small towns and homes were moved or abandoned in order to build a larger waterway in the 1950's. There are references to this event in the story. So-the novel is well written but not as memorable as other novels that I have read from the 2010 shortlist- I particularly liked two volumes of short stories that were on that 2010 list.

112torontoc
Nov 20, 2014, 12:56 pm

99. Wonder of Wonders: A Cultural History of A Fiddler on the Roof by Alisa Solomon. The author has taken the history of the original Sholem Aleichem stories about Tevye the Milkman, and traced the origins and biography of the author. The history of how this author's stories were then translated and eventually turned into a play and later a musical and then a film, are set out in great detail. I did like the author's organization and descriptions of the changes and developments of the musical and the contributions by the director Jerome Robbins,writer Joseph Stein and the lyricist Sheldon Harnick and composer Jerry Bock. The role of Teyve, central to any of the productions was played by Zero Mostel and later Chaim Topol. Solomon puts this history into context with the reception ( or lack of) by Sholem Aleichem's works in the early 20th century and the crucial events in 1960's and later 21st century history. The descriptions of the musical are more detailed than the work on the film. Solomon selects a few examples of the play's performance history that illuminate contemporary society. This is a really good history not only of this story but also of the surrounding events. Highly recommended if you are interested in adaptations of plays into musicals and contemporary Jewish history.

113torontoc
Nov 23, 2014, 9:37 am

100. Bethlehem Road Murder by Batya Gur Well, this mystery is my 100th book read this year. A friend lent me the book. The stories follow a chief superintendent in the Jerusalem police, Michael Ohayon. This mystery involved the death of a young woman who is found with her faced smashed in on the roof or really in the attic of a house about to be rebuilt. Ohayon finds the answer in a number of concerns- the rivalry between Sephardim( those whose ancestry is from the Mediterranean area and Arab countries) and Ashkenazim ( from European origins), the adoption of Yemenite children ( and really their disappearance )in Israel in the early 1950's and neighbourhood problems. The characters are all interesting and well described but there are too many. I found that the number of detectives and their personal stories sometimes got in the way of the plot. The author does create complicated plot that does involve more than the killer and victim. I would follow the rest of the series.

114Helenliz
Nov 23, 2014, 9:52 am

well done on reaching 100!

115wookiebender
Nov 25, 2014, 6:17 am

Congratulations on reaching 100! And I've loved Siri Hustvedt's earlier novels, will have to buy her new one too.

116torontoc
Nov 29, 2014, 9:12 am

Thank you!

101.The World of Yesterday by Stefan Zweig and translated by Anthea Bell. I enjoyed this memoir by Zweig. It was very interesting in that he avoids telling about his intimate personal life. What he does is give a portrait of Austrian and particularly Viennese society in the early 1900's. The reader learns about the life of a student at the turn of the century, the status of writers and artists at that time and the feelings about war and conflict during and after World War 1. Zweig is writing this account at the end of his life in the early 1940's. He would eventually commit suicide in Brazil in 1942. He records his thoughts of a noted writer, biographer and playwright. At the end of the memoir he does write about the treatment of Jews in Austria. Zweig understands later that his religion and nationality will determine what happens to him. What his translator tells us, the reader, is that his family was wealthy and he was allowed to live his life as he chose as he was the second son. His brother was expected to run the family business. Zweig considered himself apolitical- he never voted and tried to keep out of any conflict. He did leave Austria and lived in England for many years before the second world war. He briefly describes his friendship with Sigmund Freud, Theodore Herzl and many writers from European countries. A majority of this account is given to Zweig's thoughts on society and theories about the culture of his time.
An interesting read.

117torontoc
Dez 10, 2014, 6:58 pm

102.Charles Dickens A Life by Claire Tomalin Claire Tomalin had written an account of the life and relationship of Nelly Ternan and Charles Dickens that I read after seeing the film based on this book. In 2011, Tomalin wrote about the man himself, Charles Dickens I liked this biography of Dickens. His background, with a problematic father who was always in debt and his own responsibility as a young boy working in a " blacking factory" certainly shaped Dickens life. His rise in life and writing ability as well as his selection of themes that reflect some of his own history produced some of the most important fiction of his time. Tomalin integrates descriptions of the literature into the very crowded and busy life of Dickens. The reader learns about his friendships and business dealings as well as his family life. Dickens married young and produced a family of 10. He eventually separated from his wife Catherine after treating her very badly. Dickens sent his boys to boarding school and then out of the country to Australia and India. Only one youngest son, Henry went to Cambridge and did well. The daughters went to live with Dickens and seemed to be treated better than the sons. Dickens also began a secret relationship with Nelly Ternan. The account of his life, traveling from London to his country home and then to the places where Nelly lived as well as touring was exhausting. I found reading the other book that Tomalin wrote about the Nelly Ternan affair certainly helped make a complete picture of Dickens.

118jfetting
Dez 11, 2014, 9:48 am

I loved that Zweig book. I think his nonfiction is just as good as his fiction - his biography of Marie Antoinette is also worth reading.

119torontoc
Dez 13, 2014, 8:41 am

I will have to put that book on my wish list!

103. The Afterlife of Stars by Joseph Kertes I found this account of a Hungarian family that escaped after the 1956 revolution - unusual and quirky. The narrative is done by the 9 year old Stephen. He has an older thirteen old brother, Attila whose actions become more and more bizarre as the novel progresses. In fact after what was an irritating run of endless questions on the minute details of anything he was talking about, I realized that Attilla was severely disturbed. The story seems to be interrupted by these musings on almost everything. The core story is very engrossing. The Beck family escapes across the Austrian border just as the Russians are occupying Budapest. This family was saved during the Holocaust by Raoul Wallenberg and their cousin Paul Beck. This story and the mystery of their great aunt's disfiguring hands are finally told in Paris where the family goes on their way to Canada. The actions of Attila seem irrational at the end of the story- I am still puzzling over some choices of plot. The writing is very good.

120torontoc
Dez 22, 2014, 5:37 pm

104 By the Book Writers on Literature and the Literary Life from The New York Times Book Review edited by Pamela Paul. I really enjoyed reading about the many interviewed authors and notables. The questions about books, choices and thoughts on literature gave me new sources on who to read. As well, I felt validated that these authors would put down a book that didn't engage them right away. A great read for the end of the year!

121torontoc
Dez 27, 2014, 9:45 am

105. Time's Arrow by Martin Amis. Oh, this novel was very good but at the same time, very disturbing. Amis writes about a doctor in the United States-Tod Friendly- but takes him back in time from his death to his birth. The reader is confronted by an alter ego who narrates the story as the we see Tod change names as he moves to Portugal and then Germany where he is Odile Unverdorben- a doctor at Auschwitz. The narration seems to be more of a flow of words and the reader has to decipher the actions and thoughts. The descriptions of the concentration camp and Odile's participation are disturbing and more so when I recalled the actions of his life in the United States. A worthwhile read and I understand why this book was nominated for the Booker Prize.

122torontoc
Dez 28, 2014, 12:43 pm

106. The Last Song by Eva Wiseman This ER Young Adult novel is about the life and times of a young teenager living in Toledo, Spain in 1491-2. Isabel is a good Catholic and her father is physician to the King and Queen of Spain. She finds out during the course of the story that her parents are in fact hidden Jews whose grandparents converted under the threat of death many years ago. Isabel learns about her Jewish heritage with the help of a young silversmith and his family. She is also betrothed to a young man who is brutal and cruel- her parents think that this marriage will protect her from the Inquisition.Unfortunately, her father is betrayed to the Inquisition just about the time that Spanish Jews are expelled from Spain. The adventures that Isabel undertakes to save her family and the revealing of who are friends and who are enemies make this novel exciting and very easy to follow for the young reader. I enjoyed the book and would recommend it to any reader of Young Adult novels.

123torontoc
Dez 29, 2014, 9:37 am

Last comments for 2014
I am going to comment on all three books with the title of
" Children's books that are really for adults"
107. I Am an Artist by Marta Altes
108. Gustave by Remy Simard and Pierre Pratt
109. Here I Am story by Patti Kim and illustrations by Sonia Sanchez
These slim volumes have one thing in common- they are all beautiful children's stories but really are intended for adults. The ideas and plots are not for young children- they would not understand the humour or the subtle ideas. The illustrations would confuse children in my opinion- there are other books that appeal to a younger generation with the creation of shape, colour and style. I am an Artist tells the story of a young boy who believes that he is an artist- he paints and draws over everything in his house. The style is that of a young child- and only adults will understand that the scribblings and drops of colour create a very sophisticated environment that is more related to the Abstract Expressionism art movement. The story expresses an enthusiasm for art that could be appropriate to a young child but the style would be very confusing. ( as well as promote behaviours that would drive parents mad if done in real life.)
Here I am is a story without words that is also presented in a very painterly style- a young boy travels to a new country and learns to live in a busy city. The story could be understood by a child yet- the aesthetic is very much something to be appreciated by an older reader. The style and story are really very wistful. I think that The Arrival presents the same kind of story in a way that really shows any reader the confusion of arriving and dealing with a real homeland.
The last book Gustave is a very beautiful book- the story is about a little mouse who loses his friend Gustave- he has been eaten by a cat. The setting are very dark and expressionistic in style. The dark story does end happily but the nature of the work would scare a little child. An adult would appreciate the compositions and the art.
I find the the work of Mo Willems appeals to young children- the stories and illustrations are strong and easy to understand. The books that I have talked about are very attractive but I would hesitate to recommend them for young children because of the more adult messages and sources that they exhibit.

124wookiebender
Dez 30, 2014, 7:00 pm

Happy New Year! Those last 3 books sound excellent.

125torontoc
Dez 30, 2014, 9:35 pm

Thank you- I had read them early in November really but had been thinking about them and who they would appeal to-adults!