Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Review: "What the librarian did" by Karina Bliss

Title: What the Librarian Did
Author: Karina Bliss
Published: Harlequin Super Romance, 2010
Format/No. of Pages: Large print paperback, 310 pages
Genre: Contemporary Category Romance
Book Source: Public Library (aka Work)

Personal Rating:


Is Rachel Robinson the only one on campus who doesn't know who Devin Freedman is?  No big deal except that the bad-boy rock star gets a kick out of Rachel's refusal to worship at his feet.  And that seems to have provoked his undivided attention.  Devin, the guy who gave new meaning to the phrase "sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll."  Devin, the guy who somehow becomes wedged between her and the past she's kept hidden for years.

It's up to this librarian to find out firsthand just how "bad" he really is.  Because her secret - and her growing feelings for a man who claims he's bent on redemption - depend on his turning out to be as good as he seems.  Which is really, really good.

My Thoughts:

The ultimate (IMHO, anyway!) opposites attract pairing: a librarian and a rockstar.  I really liked the different setting (an academic library in New Zealand) and the zingers between the two main characters were great!  Ms. Bliss deals with weightly issues well (teen pregnancy, addiction, abuse) and (especially near the end) made me really ache for the characters and what they had gone through.  It was a bit draggy in the middle (especially with the lack of communication/stubborn misunderstandings between Devin and Rachel), and there was no real mystery from the first about who was who (ahem). 

Bottom Line: A good afternoon escape.  I'll probably read Karina Bliss again, but won't actively hunt down her backlist.

Reason For Reading:
Found at The Misadventures of Super Librarian (Wendy), who said: "A Harlequin SuperRomance featuring an academic librarian heroine who falls in love with a rock star with a badass dragon tattoo. Seriously, I should be so lucky. Here in Public Library Land we're lucky most days to see guys with all their teeth, who bathe on a semi-regular basis."

Personal Challenges: A-Z (Authors), New Authors, Read 'n' Review, Support Your Local Library

Author: Karina Bliss
Publisher: Super Authors (Harlequin Superromance)
Other Reviews:
I'm new to reviewing so please bear with me!  I'm still finding my groove about what works and what doesn't.  What do you like to see in a review (and what don't you like)?  I would love to hear from you!  Thanks for reading!  Jenn

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Old vs. New? (B.T.T. #2)

This week's Booking Through Thursday question:

Do you prefer reading current books? Or older ones? Or outright old ones? (As in, yes, there’s a difference between a book from 10 years ago and, say, Charles Dickens or Plato.)

Usually I read new or newish fiction.  If I find an author I really like, I'll hunt down his/her back list of older titles (if there is one).  For non-fiction, it depends on the material - for some topics only the most updated material is appropriate, while for others the date when the title was written is irregardless.  I'm challenging myself this year to read really old (such as Beowulf or Plato) books; I have read Plato's Republic, but it's been such a long time... ;-)

(As an aside, my all-time favourite book was first started by its author in 1796 and originally published in 1813 - yes, it's Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice)

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Bloggiesta Ole! (Wrap-Up Post)

Total Hours: about 18 hours (give or take - I wasn't really keeping minute-by-minute track...)
    Saturday - approximately 8 hours
    Sunday - approximately 8 hours
    Sunday evening/Monday morning - approximately 2 hours

What I Accomplished?
  • Created templates (2) for reviews in Google Docs
  • Created template for "Bookmarked" in Google Docs
  • Created a review policy page - this was a biggie and took me the longest!
  • Read (probably) over 1000 feeds in Google Reader (and I still have a 1000 more to go!)
  • Visited the Blogging Tips group on the Books Blog Ning - found lots of helpful tips!
  • Changed my template
  • Added my blogs to Google Webmaster to keep track of RSS feeds (thanks to Leeswammes Blog!)
  • Posted initial challenge posts - 1/2 done!
  • Joined and commented on challenges - 1/2 done!
  • Added challenge progress gadget to blog side bar - though this may change...

I completed three of the mini-challenges -
  • Danielle at "There's a Book": It's all about the numbers - I set up a Google Analytics account...
  • Jennifer at "Girls Gone Reading": Your Review Policy - I wrote one! (It seems a little premature to do so, but it gives me a firmer idea of the direction I want to take...) Please take a look and let me know what you think!
  • Kim and Jackie at "Blog Improvement Project": Write Your Blogging To-Do List - I've written my (tenative) list (there's always more to add, right?!) and plan to post it sometime in the near future..

This was my first Bloggiesta, but I really enjoyed it!  I didn't get as much done as I had hoped, but I surpassed my aimed-for time (12 hours - aim low, right? ;-) The biggest thing for me was writing my review policy.  I may never need it, but it's helped me define my goals and personal expectations for this blog, which I'm going to strengthen with help from my Blogging To-Do List.  All in all, it was great and I look forward to nĂºmero cuatro!  Thanks for challenge Natasha!


So there was even more distraction (and less Bloggiesta-ing) Sunday evening...

Murdoch Mysteries - I caught the season 3 finale (with Parkwood! - a local historical home in my city - and (I think) old Toronto city hall?) and now I want to go back to season 1 (and read the books, of course! ;-)  It reminds me slightly of the TV adaption of Anne Perry's Cater Street Hangman (which I'm trying to track down a copy of...), and it's Canadian of course!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Cathie Linz: Mad, Bad and Blonde (Bookmarked #1)

Working in a library, there is one distinct (dis)advantage: too many interesting books, not enough time!

Therefore, in an effort to highlight, remember and (maybe eventually) read, this is "Bookmarked".


Title: Mad, Bad and Blonde
Author: Cathie Linz
Publisher: Berkley Sensation
Year: 2010
Genre: contemporary romance

In Brief: After being jilted at the altar, librarian Faith West goes on her Italian honeymoon solo, but doesn't stay that way too long. And though her sexy rebound man has ulterior motives, feelings surface that neither of them are prepared for. [Fantastic Fiction]

What Caught Me: the cover, the character (a librarian!), the blurb - and it's the first book in a new series!


* This personal meme was inspired by Luanne's "Over the counter" feature at A Bookworm's World *

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Bloggiesta Update - Sunday (aka The Day the TV Fates Conspire Against My Bloggiesta!)

Bloggiesta - Sunday Edition:

I mainly worked on some of the mini-challenges (see below) as well as continuing to clear out my Google Reader (though with Bloggiesta, it just keeps filling up again... sigh).  Because of certain distractions (ahem, see below), I didn't get as much as I would have liked done.  Though the day is running down, I may complete a few more items from my initial list before I write up my final wrap-up post early Monday morning. 


  • Danielle at "There's a Book": It's all about the numbers - I set up a Google Analytics account...
  • Jennifer at "Girls Gone Reading": Your Review Policy - I wrote one!  (It seems a little premature to do so, but it gives me a firmer idea of the direction I want to take...)  Please take a look and let me know what you think!
  • Kim and Jackie at "Blog Improvement Project": Write Your Blogging To-Do List - I've written my (tenative) list (there's always more to add, right?!) and plan to post it sometime in the near future...
Total Hours Today: about 8 hours (so far)

My Sunday Distractions:

Sahara, Van Helsing and The Mummy - yes, they're not the height of film-making, but they're all favourites!  Hugh Jackman?  Check.  Matthew McConaughey?  Check.  Brendan Fraser?  Check.  Adventure?  Check.  Legendary monsters?  Check.  Romance?  Check.  What's not to love?  ;-)

Between the movies, there was also an Egypt special on Discovery (2 hours) and a Tudor special on History (1 hour).  Oh, and keeping next-door's cat away from the bird feeder.  Sigh.

Favourite line: "They are led by a woman.  What does a woman know?" ;-)

Bloggiesta Update - Saturday

Update - End Day 1 (for me!)

Since I had work and other commitments on Friday, I started Bloggiesta today. My initial aim is for a total of 12 hours and I have the following goals:
  • Write reviews
  • Write backup posts for a rainy day (especially memes: Thursday 13, Booksmarks, etc.)
  • Create template posts for your future reads (ie: title, images, linking, tags, etc,) so you can open up, write review and post without being bogged down with technicalities.
  • Add or edit your about me page, review policy
  • Work through feeds (close to 500) (1/2 done!)
  • Visit the Blogging Tips group on the Book Blogs Ning and find ways to improve your blog.
Additions to original list:
  • Change my blogger template
  • added my blogs to Google Webmaster to keep track of RSS feeds (thanks to Leeswammes Blog!)
  • posted initial challenge posts (1/2 done!)
  • joined and commented on challenges (1/2 done!)
  • added challenge progress gadget to blog side bar
  • get started on "Behind the Fairy Tale Page", my companion blog of lists (previous reads, series, etc.)
When I logged in on Friday, I realized Blogger's template layout/design tab had changed!  Wow!  So I spent most of my Saturday time playing with that (besides making Blueberry and Buttermilk muffins - my favourite!)

I still want to get an account at Shelfari, Goodreads or LibraryThing... does anyone have any preference or are they all pretty much similiar?

Total Hours: 8 hours (as of 1 a.m.)

...the yummy distraction (ignore the dirty dishes in the background...)!

Cats, Chunkies, Fantasies and Romance (Reading Challenges #2)

Challenge the Fifth...

Hosted by Beth at Beth's Book Review Blog, the "Cat Book Challenge" is:

You probably know that I'm a big cat lover and I also wanted to host my first book challenge so what better thing than to combine them! So, I'm hosting the 2010 Cat Book Challenge!

Challenge Guidelines:

1. You can join anytime, and the challenge runs from January 1, 2010 until December 31, 2010.

2. When you sign up with Mr. Linky below, use the direct link to the post where your challenge book list will be listed, not your blog homepage. If you don't have a blog, just leave the URL blank.

3. The goal is to read 1 cat book per month for a total of 12 for the year. This can be any book with "cat" in the title or about cats (cats as characters, etc.).

4. These can be audiobooks, children's books, non fiction, mysteries, whatever, as long as it's cat related.

My Thoughts:

Um, cats? And books? I think I'm in heaven! ;-)

My initial reading list: ...is still undecided!


Challenge the Sixth...

Hosted by Caribousmom at a dedicated blog, the "The Chunkster Challenge" runs from February 2010 until January 2011, and is "a challenge which satisfies those readers who like their books fat and chunky!"

Definition of a Chunkster:

A chunkster is 450 pages or more of ADULT literature (fiction or nonfiction) ... A chunkster should be a challenge.

If you read large type books your book will need to be 525 pages or more ... The average large type book is 10-15% longer or more so I think that was a fair estimate.

Challenge Guidelines:

1. No Audio books in the chunkster. It just doesn't seem right. Words on paper for this one folks. No e-Books allowed - we are reading traditional, fat books for this challenge. Short Stories and Essay collections will not be counted.

2. Books may crossover with other challenges.

3. Anyone may join. If you don't have a blog, just leave me a comment on this post with your progress (and to let me know you are playing). You don't need to list your books ahead of time.

4. Once you pick a level, that's it...you're committed to that level! The three levels are:

      *The Chubby Chunkster - this option is for the reader who has a couple of large tomes on their TBR list, but really doesn't want to commit to much more than that. 3 books is all you need to finish this challenge.
      *Do These Books Make my Butt Look Big? - this option is for the slightly heavier reader who wants to commit to 4 Chunksters over the next twelve months.
      *Mor-book-ly Obese - This is for the truly out of control chunkster. For this level of challenge you must commit to 6 or more chunksters OR three tomes of 750 pages or more. You know you want to.....go on and give in to your cravings.

5. To review or not to review, that is the quesion...Reviews are not mandatory, but they are strongly encouraged. I will be putting up a Mr. Linky at the beginning of the challenge for links to your reviews. I will also be posting a Mr. Linky for wrap up posts at the end of the challenge.

6. To sign up, please use Mr. Linky below by linking DIRECTLY to your post about the challenge (please, please - do NOT link to your main blog page!!). If you do not have a blog, just enter your name in the name part of Mr. Linky and hit enter (also leave me a comment telling me which level of participation you will be doing).

My Thoughts:
I think (though I could be wrong...) I tend to read smaller books.  However, I have picked up a few recently that definitely qualify as "chunksters".  Hence this challenge!  I'm aiming for level 2, "*Do These Books Make my Butt Look Big?", which means four books...

My initial reading list:
1. Tim Cook: At the sharp end (non-fiction, 608 pages, hardcover)
2. Elizabeth Kostova: The historian (fiction, 656 pages, hardcover)
3. Gavin Menzies: 1421 (non-fiction, 520 pages, hardcover)
4. ? fiction ?


Challenge the Seventh...

Hosted by Royal Reviews (though the challenge post is currently at Queen of Happy Endings), the "Fantasy Reading Challenge" is:

The Fantasy Reading Challenge can include YA Fantasy or Historical Fantasy, Science Fiction Fantasy or any other sub genre of Fantasy. There really are no limits to this challenge as Fantasy is such a wide and varied genre. Just enjoy and have fun!

Challenge Guidelines:

1. Anyone can join. You don't need a blog to participate.

2. There are four levels:
      i. Curious – Read 3 Fantasy Fiction novels.
      ii. Fascinated – Read 6 Fantasy Fiction novels.
      iii. Addicted – Read 12 Fantasy Fiction novels.
      iv. Obsessed – Read 20 Fantasy Fiction novels.

3. Any book format counts.

4. You can list your books in advance or just put them in a wrap up post. If you list them, feel free to change them as the mood takes you.

5. Challenge begins January 1st thru December, 2010.

6. When you sign up under Mr. Linky, put the direct link to the post about the Fantasy Fiction Reading Challenge. Include the URL so that other participants can find join in and read your reviews and post.

My Thoughts: I'm aiming for level 2, "Fascinated" (6 fantasy fiction books).  I haven't read as much fantasy lately as I would have liked... and now here's my chance!

My initial reading list: ...is coming soon!


Challenge the Eighth...

Hosted by the Book Dragon and Yvonne at a dedicated blog, the "Harlequin/Silhouette Romance Reading Challenge" ...

Challenge Guidelines:

1. Challenge is from Jan 1 to Dec 31, 2010

2. All of the books must be from the Harlequin family of imprints

3. Read one book for each requirement:
      i. Read 1 book with a weather condition in the title (i.e. storm, rain, snow)
      ii. Read 1 book with a person's name in the title (i.e. Mary, John)
      iii. Read 1 book with a title in the title (i.e. King, Prince, Princess, Sheik)
      iv. Read 1 book with a color in the title (i.e. red, blue, white)
      v. Read 1 book by an author whose last name begins with the letter "R"
      vi. Read 1 book with an element in the title (earth, water, fire, air, spirit)

4. Please join the challenge by commenting with a link to your post (I'll start a participant blog roll)

5. A list is not necessary and may be changed at any time

6. Books can be in any format - paper, audio, ebook

7. Books may be used for other challenges

My Thoughts: You know how some books or authors are "comfort" reads? Well, Harlequins' are mine...

My initial reading list: ...is coming soon!


I've created a "Reading Challenges" page where I'm planning to keep track of my progress for all of my challenges, including these and others...

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Bloggiesta Ole!

What is Bloggiesta?

Hosted by Natasha at Maw Books Blog, Bloggiesta is: ...a blogging marathon. A opportunity to cross those nagging items off of your to-do list and improve your blog while in the good company of other awesome bloggers doing the same thing. Break out the nachos, enchiladas, drinks, mariachi music and whack a pinata or two!

What am I planning to do during Bloggiesta?  (...mostly housekeeping)
  • Write reviews.
  • Write backup posts for a rainy day (especially memes: Thursday 13, Booksmarks, etc.)
  • Create template posts for your future reads (ie: title, images, linking, tags, etc,) so you can open up, write review and post without being bogged down with technicalities.
  • Add or edit your about me page, review policy, disclosure policy, privacy policy, create landing pages (for example – an about me for Twitter readers page) or any other pages you might have.
  • Visit the Blogging Tips group on the Book Blogs Ning and find ways to improve your blog.
  • Clean out and organize your feed reader and blog subscriptions - this is a definite!  My Google Reader has almost 300 blogs (book blogs and otherwise...)!
  • Find a blogging buddy
Though Bloggiesta starts on Friday, I'll be playing on Saturday and Sunday only (since, you know, I have to work...sigh).  My aim is for twelve hours (though I can easily get lost floating around all the awesome blogs!)  I'm new to book blogging and I'm still feeling my way around, so I'm looking forward to reading about and visiting everyone else!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Reading Challenges: First Books, 100 (and more!), Alphabets, and IYOB

Challenge the First...

Hosted by Royal Reviews (though the challenge post is currently at Queen of Happy Endings), the "1st in a Series" Reading Challenge is...

As so many of us love reading our series this one gives you the chance to include them in your challenges. As with all our other challenges there are various levels from the Curious to the Obsessed. If you start out at the Curious level and find yourself on the Addicted level then just change you post accordingly.

Challenge Guidelines:

1. Anyone can join. You don't need a blog to participate.

2. There are four levels:
    i. Curious – Read 3 novels that are first in a series.
    ii. Fascinated – Read 6 novels that are first in a series.
    iii. Addicted – Read 12 novels that are first in a series.
    iv. Obsessed – Read 20 novels that are first in a series.

3. Any genre counts.

4. You can list your books in advance or just put them in a wrap up post. If you list them, feel free to change them as the mood takes you.

5. Challenge begins January 1st thru December, 2010.

6. When you sign up under Mr. Linky, put the direct link to the post about the 1st in a Series Challenge. Include the URL so that other participants can find join in and read your reviews and post.

My Thoughts:

I thought (at first) to choose the first level ("curious"), but I think now I'll aim for the second level: "Fascinated."  (I find I read a lot of series titles anyway, so that may change in the near future, but for the moment...)

My initial book list:

1. Twilight by Stephenie Meyers (Twilight saga)
        (I have so far refused to read this series - and laughed at the wrong places in the movie - but now I'm guilted into reading it when my mom bought me the second book for easter... sigh)
2. Second sight by Amanda Quick (Arcane Society)
3. The trouble with magic by Madelyn Alt (Bewitching Mystery)
4. A spy in the house by Y. S. Lee (The Agency)
5. On Basilisk Station by David Weber (Honor Harrington)
6. The lightning thief by Rick Riordan (Percy Jackson and the Olympians)


Challenge the Second...

Hosted by Home Girl's Book Blog, the goal of the "100+ Reading Challenge" is fairly obvious... reading 100 or more books in 2010!

Challenge Guidelines:

1. The goal is to read 100 or more books. Anyone can join. You don't need a blog to participate.

2. Audio, re-reads, eBooks, YA, manga, graphic novels, library books, novellas, young readers, non-fiction... as long as the book has an ISBN or equivalent, or can be purchased as such, it counts. What doesn't count: individual short stories or individual books in the Bible.

3. No need to list your books in advance. You may select books as you go. Even if you list them now, you can change the list if needed.

4. Crossovers from other reading challenges count.

5. Challenge begins January 1st thru December, 2010. Books started before the 1st do not count.

6. When you sign up under Mr. Linky, put the direct link to your post where your books will be listed. Include the URL to this post so that other viewers can find this fun challenge. If you’d prefer to put your list in the sidebar of your blog, please leave your viewers the link to the sign up page. Again, so viewers can join the challenge too.

My Thoughts:

Though I haven't been reading a lot in the past year or two, I'm planning to start again this year... there are just so many good books! I hoping this challenge (and the others) are going to help me with that plan...

My initial book list:

* I haven't decided yet, but I'll definitely be aiming for the 100 and plus (with emphasis on the "and plus") benchmark...


Challenge the Third...

Hosted by Becky at a dedicated blog, the "A to Z Reading Challenge" is a chance to read in a slightly different way... alphabetically!

Challenge Guidelines:

The challenge runs from January 1, 2010 to December 31, 2010, and there are three levels to choose from:

      Option 1: Authors -- Read alphabetically by author. Commit to 26 books.
      Option 2: Titles -- Read alphabetically by title. Commit to 26 books.
      Option 3: Authors & Titles -- Commit to reading 52 books

And about those pesky, difficult letters?
If you want to give the X's a go... For authors, try to find an X in the first name, middle name, or last name. For titles, it doesn't have to be the starting word. Try to find an X somewhere in a title, and it'd count in my book.

Still can't find a book for the letter you need? I'll take your word for it. I've been there. I know. If your library doesn't see the need to order books just because it starts with an X, then I don't blame you for not wanting to special order a book that you may or may not enjoy. You gave it your best, don't feel bad. You can still make this challenge work for you.

My Thoughts:

I decided to aim for option 3 (read alphabetically by author and title - 52 books!), mainly because I couldn't decide which to do! ;-)

My initial book lists:

By Author:
A - Allen, Sarah Addison: Garden spells
B - Bliss, Karina: What the librarian did
C -
D -
E -
F - Fantaskey, Beth: Jekel loves Hyde
G -
H -
I -
J -
K - Kostova, Elizabeth: The historian
L - Liu, Marjorie: Wild road
M - Meyers, Stephenie: Twilight
N -
O -
P -
Q - Quick, Amanda: Second sight
R - Riordan, Rick: The lightning thief
S -
T -
U -
V -
W -
X -
Y -
Z -

By Title:
A - Alcatraz versus the evil librarians by Brandon Sanderson
B -
C -
D - Dante in love by Harriet Rubin
E - Extremely loud and incredibly close by Jonathan Safran Foer
F - The factory voice by Jeanette Lynes
G -
H -
I -
J -
K -
L -
M -
N -
O - On Basilisk Station by David Weber
P -
Q -
R -
S - Steamed by Katie MacAlister
T - The trouble with magic by Madelyn Alt
U -
V -
W - White lies by Jayne Ann Krentz
X -
Y -
Z -


Challenge the Fourth...

Hosted by Sylvia at the Classical Bookworm, the "Biodiversity Reading Challenge" was created to honour 2010 as the International Year of Biodiversity.

Sylvia says: As a biologist, I naturally couldn’t let this international year go by without putting together a reading challenge for it! By learning more about biodiversity we can better appreciate its value and do more to ensure its protection at home and around the world. To that end I’ve put together a selection of reading challenges for this year...

Challenge Levels:

1. Basic: 3 books on any biodiversity topic.

2. Biomes: 3 books about major world ecosystems: open ocean; coral reefs; lakes and rivers; arctic tundra; boreal forests; temperate forests; tropical forests; savannah; grassland/steppe/ deserts.

3. Branches: 3 books on different life forms: plants; fungi; invertebrates (including insects); reptiles and amphibians; birds; mammals.

4. Bye-bye: 2 books about endangered or extinct species or about extinction or conservation.

5. Backyard: Buy 2 or more field guides to your local flora & fauna and get to know your neighbours.

6. Biodiversity Bonanza: One of each of the above!

I’ve also devised some “field trips” to get you closer to your subject:

1. Level 1—Indoorsy: Visit a natural history museum or watch a documentary series on biodiversity (e.g. Planet Earth)

2. Level 2—Outdoorsy: Take a guided walk or hike in a local park. Check park system websites for schedules.

3. Level 3—Full Granola: Design your own field trip to go birding, botanizing, field-journaling, or whatever you like. Alternatively, join a local natural history club, or take a course in natural history online or at a college or community centre.

Sylvia has also helpfully provided some web resources and suggested books.

My Thoughts:

I thought at first just to head for the "Basic" level, but after thinking about all the wonderful books available, I've decided to upgrade to "Biodiversity Bonanza": read a book from each of the other levels!  For the "field trip", I'v decided to stick with level 1 ("Indoorsy")...

My initial reading list: ...is coming soon!

Field trip level:

I plan to re-watch "Blue Planet" (which I loved when I first saw it!) as well as the "Planet Earth" set.  I did happen to catch most of the "Life" episodes on Discovery channel, but wasn't as impressed as I was with "Blue Planet" (and a lot of the shots looked very familiar...)


I've created a "Reading Challenges" page where I'm planning to keep track of my progress for all of my challenges, including these and others...

Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Great War Reading Challenge

The Great War Reading Challenge (June 2010 - June 2011)

This is a personal reading challenge, though you're more than welcome to join in! ;-)

Ever since high school (and an excellent teacher!), I have loved history.  As I moved on to university (guess what my major was ;-), my fascination with it grew and developed.  I took courses in a variety of subjects - medieval, women's, African, British, Canadian - until in my last year I took a World War One course.  Ever since then, I have continued to read any non-fiction war book I can get my hands on. 

Since beginning this blog in the not so distant past, I decided to formalize my interest in World War One by a personal reading challenge: The Great War Reading Challenge. 

My plan is to read books (either fiction or non-fiction, from any age level) that deal with World War One (1914-1918), its origins, events, and lingering effects, before reviewing them.  I'll have a mainly Canadian focus, but will not limit myself entirely: I have never read anything about the Australian experience, and I want to re-read (and re-watch the original film version) Erich Remarque's All quiet on the western front.

At the moment I don't have a set number of books that I'm aiming for - I just can't decide!  I read a lot of non-fiction; it probably accounts for about half of my reading material (and the other half is usually romance and fantasy!)  (Yes, I'm a geek - usually the first place I head to in the local bookstore is the non-fiction section...)

I don't have a set reading list (especially since I can't decide on an ultimate number, either...), but the following couple titles will be, at some time or another, read and reviewed:

Tim Cook: At the sharp end: Canadians fighting the Great War, 1914-1916 (vol. 1)
Tim Cook: Shock troops: Canadians fighting the Great War, 1917-1918 (vol. 2) *
A. B. Godefroy: For Freedom and honour?: the story of the 25 Canadian volunteers executed in the First World War
Erich Remarque: All quiet on the western front

* this book won the 2009 Charles Taylor prize for literary non-fiction

Project: Picture Book Reading Challenge

Project: Picture Book (June 2010 - June 2011)

This is a personal reading challenge, though you're more than welcome to join in! ;-)

I love picture books. 

Really.  Even though I have no children, they are one of my favourite types of books.  I have even succumbed to buying a particular favourite title or author (Melanie Watt, Beatrix Potter, Rob Scotton...).

I work at a library branch and used to conduct a preschool class every week (I'm with the 6 to 9 year olds now...).  This, of course, only gave me the excuse to plop my butt down in the picture book section on the pretext of looking for that week's theme-orientated books.  (But then, I also claim I'm "familiarizing myself with the collection" as well! ;-)  Even though I'm no longer with that age group (though I'm finding that the older kids will listen to a picture book as well - yay!), I still read them.  Constantly. 

Therefore I decided to make myself a personal challenge!

I will read one picture book a week starting June 2010 (next week!) and either comment on it or review it (hopefully the latter).  Some of the books will be favourites, while others will be randomly pulled from the shelf.  By next June (2011), I'll have read and reviewed 52 picture books (of course, I could do more, but at least there will be 52... ;-)

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Graphic Lit (Weekly Geeks #1)

I first became aware of the term "graphic novel" a few years ago. I thought it meant novels that are, well, graphic in the sense of violence or sex. (I'm a little slow on the uptake sometimes!) My first introduction to a graphic novel/memoir was Alison Bechdel's Fun Home. (Some of you may know her as the amazing author of Dykes to Watch Out For in all its iterations.) I was enthralled with Fun Home's story, the illustrations, the form. Since then I've read several more graphic memoirs and some graphic novels. A particular favorite author is Shaun Tan, author of The Arrival, Tales from Outer Suburbia and others.

Do you read graphic novels or memoirs? Who are your favorite authors? Which books do you recommend?

If you haven't read any, why not?

Some people have the impression that graphic novels are glorified comic books, are unsophisticated or don't qualify as "serious" literature. What do you think? If you track your book numbers, do you count a graphic novel as a book read?


I think I read a fair amount of graphic novels (and manga, though they seem more like a guilty pleasure, for some reason...), though not as much as the librarian (and my boss) at work - it's probably his favourite thing!  I'm not so keen on the Marvel/DC popular characters (i.e. Batman, Superman, X-Men, etc.) and all their various incarnations, though I will read them and there are some that have been really good (the one where Superman was Russian instead of American - can't think of the title at the moment, of course! - turned everything on its head). 

Recent reads (and re-reads) include Revelations by Paul Jenkins and Humbero Ramos, Shannon Hale's Rapunzel's revenge, the "Fables" series, and the manga adaptation of Sherrilyn Kenyon's "Dark-Hunter" series. 

Revelations was good (though the artwork took a bit getting used to - the (good) characters looked slightly demonic), though it was a little unsettling and didn't really end with an end (if you know what I mean...).  If you're Catholic (which I'm not), you may be offended by it, but if you liked the Da Vinci Code, you'd probably like this one. 

Shannon Hale's version of Rapunzel's revenge was also good - it was a fun example of the fractured fairy-tale... and I can't wait to read Calamity Jack

The "Fables" series by Bill Willingham (though I have yet to read the spin-off about Jack) is really good - again, it's an example of the fractured fairy-tale, though this one is definitely for mature audiences (get your head out of the gutter - I'm talking themes, not content...though there is a bit of that, as well!). 

And the Sherrilyn Kenyon cross-over manga?  Don't bother.  (Yes, I understand manga is a completely different art style.  But really, it ruined one of my favourite characters (Tabitha).  Grrr.)

Memoirs, not so much.  For some reason, I'm not that nosy - though I'm nosy enough with other things!

I definitely count graphic novels as a book read - and some of them can be very sophisticated.  There's one that just came in to the library that I've had my eye on: Pride of Baghdad by Brian Vaughan.  It's about the American bombing of Baghdad in 2003 - and the pride of lions that escaped from the zoo at that time.  It deserves careful reading, but I have waaaay too much on my plate at the moment, unfortunately.

What's your take on graphic novels?  Do you have any favourites that you always recommend?

Visit "Weekly Geeks" for more thoughts!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Garden Diary Reading Challenge

Garden Diary Challenge (June 2010 - June 2011)

This is a personal reading challenge, though you're more than welcome to join! ;-)

My plan is to read, each week, an entry from Des Kennedy's An ecology of enchantment.  I'll also be reading one (maybe more!) book a month, which features gardens and gardening.  It could be fiction or non-fiction and of any age level (child, teen or adult).

I plan to comment on the Des Kennedy entries, as well as write reviews on the other books.

My initial reading list:

1. Des Kennedy: An ecology of enchantment: a year in the life of a garden (ongoing)
2. June 2010 - Sarah Addison Allen: Garden spells

Monday, May 24, 2010

Rating System?

The idea of a personal rating system for books appeals to me.

However, my rating may be completely different than yours.  Even with such helpful questions as:

§ Was the author able to impart the story in such a way that the reader is not distracted by the words themselves?

§ Does the book contain wonderful descriptions that carry the reader away from reality to another world?

§ Did the author’s presentation of the book’s content have an undertone of meaning, such that the reader is left feeling that they have learned something important by reading the book?
(from Inkweaver Review)
My ratings (and thus reviews) tend towards more subjective rather than stylistic and plot issues.  If I would read a book again, for example, then to me it's an excellent book.  Something about the book has caught me.  But someone looking at the plot and the characters might find them cliche and cardboard-y, thus giving a completely different (and probably poor) rating... 
On the other hand, I also read a lot of non-fiction.  Non-fiction (for some reason) I am able to look at more objectively and say yes, that was terrible research, hard for a layman to understand, excellent narrative, etc.  (Then why is that so hard for me to do with fiction books?!)
That being said (after looking through good ol'Google's results), I think I've decided on the following for a general rating system:
1 star (*) Terrible/DNF - speaks for itself!
2 stars (**) Disappointing - I finished the book, but it was a long time in coming...
3 stars (***) Average - Interesting, but I've read better.  If you want to read it, get it from the library!
4 stars (****) Good - Better than average, but not quite excellent.  Buy it only if it's on sale or at a secondhand shop.
5 stars (*****) Excellent - a definite purchase/re-read...this is the kind of book you can't stop thinking about!
(Oh so unique, isn't it? ;-)  Does that make sense?  How does everyone else rate their books? 
I know the 3 and 4 star ratings are going to give me trouble (i.e. "is it a 3 or 4?"; "this was good, but this wasn't"; etc.), and the 1 star will be rare (mainly because I'm picky!).  I'll give it a test drive and see how it works out...
Jenn ;-)

Taboo and Censorship

Censorship of the written word has a long history - and (unfortunately) continues even today.  It stems, I think, from our fears of the world, strangers and even ourselves.  Fears that range from the religious (such as Harry Potter's witchcraft connotations to Salman Rushdie) to sexuality (such as Phyllis Reynolds Naylor's Outrageously Alice and Michael Willhoite's Daddy’s roommate and events, both past and present (such as Barbara Coloroso's Extraordinary evil: a brief history of genocide and David Irving's Hitler’s war).

The idea of censorship - regardless of the reason and the content of the material - is abhorrent to me.  Since I work in a library, I've been confronted by patron's requesting the removal of certain titles.  One older gentleman demanded that a mystery novel be taken out of the system because it had too much sexual content.  Another lady - a mom probably in her late twenties or early thirties (I'm a horrible judge of age!) with a preschooler and a baby - wanted the Terry Pratchett book Where's my cow? as well as a children's CD removed from the children's area because she deemed them inappropriate. 

While I promised to pass on these "suggestions" to the higher powers that be (aka the management) and politely took their information, I wanted to say to them "Don't read it!"  You have a choice about whether to read a certain book or listen to a certain CD and even if you do not like it, others might - and probably will. 

Which brings me to personal taboos.

Everyone has them.  Not liking a particular genre because it doesn't interest you is not the same thing as a taboo; that's a personal preference.  A taboo is something - a personl, place, thing, situation, etc. - that you absolutely refuse to read about.  And when it crops up in a favourite genre or story, a reader is either tempted to put the book down or gives up altogether. 

I'll admit that I've done it a time or two with my biggest personal taboo: rape.  Regardless of the age or gender of the victim, the portrayal or even hint of rape in a story turns me right off.  (Even by one of my favourite authors - I love Patricia Briggs, but the first couple pages of Cry wolf turned me off by just the hint of sexual abuse the female character had endured.)

I remember picking up a very thick book (I can't even remember the name of it anymore) while on my break one day and opening to a random page near the first.  It caught my attention because of the way the author had formatted it - as if a personal manuscript had been rediscovered and the "author" had placed notes in the sides about research, publishing details, etc.  However, I happened to flip to a page where it described the main character as a child - and the victim of a rape by two men.  I immediately replaced the book back on the shelf; my interest disappeared as quickly as it had come. 

The only time I've remained with a book was with the J. D. Robb's "Eve Dallas/In death" series.  I read the first four books before losing interest (but for a completely different reason).  Did it take me a while to get the past the fact of Eve's past?  Yup.  Did I enjoy the books despite the situation of her childhood?  Yup.  Would I read them again or return to the rest of the series?  Probably not, for a variety of reasons.

Why do I have this personal taboo?  Probably because this is one of my personal fears.  I don't pretend that rape doesn't (unfortunately) exist, but I have choosen not to read about it.  It's a personal choice and I'm not going to demand that every book that deals with it be banned just because I don't like it.

This post did start out life as an examination of my own personal taboo's.  Somehow it morphed into a censorship/taboo rant.  Do you have personal reading taboos?

Freedom to Read week (Canada) - Challenged book and magazine list