Posted in 5 Stars, Book Challenge - 2017

#7: A book set during wartime

nightingaleI think I’ve discovered my favourite book of the year.  I know it’s only March, but The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah was breathtaking and can’t imagine that I’ll encounter a more powerful book.

I’ve read several wartime novels from the German, Russian, and English perspectives but very few from the French perspective.  The only novel that comes to mind is Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay [who happens to be in mentioned in the acknowledgments as an author who helped Kristin Hannah].

Without giving away the plot, The Nightingale is a story of courage and bravery in all forms. It’s the story of two sisters, of lost loves, of broken families, of friendships, of coping during the darkest times, and ultimately it’s the story of the power of the human spirit.  Bottom line: it’s beautiful.

Posted in 5 Stars, Book Challenge - 2017

#6: A book you loved as a child

charlie chocolateHarry Potter has been placed on the backburner to make way for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory!  I have such fond memories of this book. I still remember my second-grade teacher, Mrs. Walker, reading this book out loud to our class. We would hang on every last word. It was sheer magic – oompa loompas, chocolate rivers, and candy galore!

And now I get to read the same book, that turned me onto reading, to my own children. It’s truly delightful!

Posted in 5 Stars, Book Challenge - 2017

#5: A book with an unreliable narrator


Mind blown…

One of my students insisted that I read Ablutions by Patrick Dewitt. I was planning on reading it over Spring Break but I had a window of time last Friday, sans kids.  I cracked it open and quickly got sucked into the chaotic word of the novel. I could not put this book down and ended up powering through it over the weekend, finally finishing it at about 2:00 Sunday morning.

What a bizarre yet compelling book. The writing is absolutely brilliant. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book that was written completely in second person point of view. I don’t think many writers could pull that off effectively. Dewitt’s choice of second person is very clever as the protagonist is despicable in many ways. Furthermore, the people he surrounds himself with are even worse. But as a reader, you’re right in there and become a part of the filthy fabric.

Ablution is captivating, shocking, disgusting, and funny all at the same time. It’s quite the memorable experience.

Posted in 4 Stars, Book Challenge - 2017

#4: A book involving a mythical creature

hp2I’ve been reading the Harry Potter series to my son.  We started with The Philosopher’s Stone last year when he was 5.  With several breaks in between for other books, we finally finished the second book, The Chamber of Secrets last night.

It’s been years since I first read this book and I have to say that it has been delightful reading it with my son. His reactions to the surprising bits like the flying car, Harry losing the bones in his arms, and Hermione turning herself into a cat have been priceless. He found Dobby punishing himself especially hilarious.

But on the flip side, this books was significantly scarier than the first installment. Part of the reason it took us so long to finish The Chamber of Secrets was that we had to take several breaks from reading it. The clever little guy that he is, any time there was mention of He Who Should Not Be Named (in any form), he asked me to say Teddy Bear instead. That lightened up the story enough for us to move on. We have the whole series to work through and tonight we start The Prisoner of Azkaban!

Posted in 3 Stars, Book Challenge - 2017

#3: A book involving travel

419_will_ferguson_thereadeWhile I appreciated the topic and the complexity of the storytelling in 419 by Will Ferguson, I have to say that I had a hard time immersing myself in the narrative.  I found the characters on the shallow side and the multiple story lines disjointed. Perhaps it was because I did not connect with many of the characters.

I understood the main character’s need for vengeance but I didn’t believe that she could follow through with what she did. I didn’t think that her character had the chops to even dream up of the revenge scheme.

The scenes in Nigeria were intense but lacked vibrancy. Last fall, I read Lawrence Hill’s The Illegal and in that novel, Hill successfully breathed life into a foreign country – as a reader, I felt immersed in the sounds, smells, and life of the setting.  This is where Ferguson fall short. What’s most surprising to me is that Will Ferguson won the prestigious Giller Prize for this novel. Maybe someone in my book club will be able to enlighten me on how that happened.

That said, my favourite scenes were the ones that took place in Nigeria. Since Will Ferguson is a well-known travel writer, it makes sense that the best scenes in the novel are the ones that are place abroad.

This book was good but fell short of my expectations.

Posted in 2 Stars, Book Challenge - 2017

#2: A book set in two time periods

the-best-of-me-book-coverNicholas Sparks drives me crazy and I’ve only read one and half of his books.  Admittedly, I haven’t read The Notebook.  I saw the movie and bawled, but I didn’t feel the need to read it. Several years ago I tried to read True Believer but I just couldn’t get through it.

I was gifted The Best of Me a few years ago and it’s been sitting on my bookshelf, untouched.  On a whim, I decided to give Sparks another whirl. Ugghhh….

So here’s the thing that perplexes me about Nicholas Sparks – people absolutely love his books. Why????  Eleven of his books (including The Best of Me) have been adapted into full feature films. Again, mind boggling.

The Best of Me is ridiculous in plot. By the halfway point, the main character Dawson Coles has almost died on an oil rig explosion, has killed a man (albeit accidentally), has served time in prison, has seen a ghost, and has grown up in a backwaters a la Deliverance hill billy family complete with an abusive alcoholic father and thug cousins who carry glocks and run a drug operation.  Wait, doesn’t Nicholas Sparks write romance novels?

I debated giving up on this book as well. But I was compelled to read on just to find out how this absurd book ended. It was a doozy. Without spoiling the ending, let’s just say I cringed and rolled my eyes. I doubt I will ever pick up another Nicholas Sparks novel. Never. Ever. Ever.

Posted in 4 Stars, Book Challenge - 2017

#1: An Espionage Thriller

43933Not exactly espionage in the true sense but it involves a ton of surveillance and suspense. I can’t get enough of Harlan Coben’s books.  I’ve read all of his books save the most recent one.  I’ve got that one on hold from the library and am patiently waiting.

There’s something about Coben’s stories that are so compelling.  They’re fast-paced and unpredictable.  So many twists and turns!  I never get tired of them.  I think what I love most about Coben’s books is his narrative.  As cheese ball as some of the characters can be, their narrative voices ring authentic. Bottom line: Coben is an excellent writer.

Tell No One begins with an abduction and murder.  Dr. David Beck is left to believe that his wife was the most recent victim of the KillRoy murderer but eight years later, he receives a mysterious email indicating otherwise.  The roller coaster ride begins at that moment and doesn’t let up until the very last page. I loved every moment of it.